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The following narrative has been compiled, at the 
suggestion of a friend, from the notes which I jotted 
down almost daily during my travels in the East; 
and it is published by the advice of other friends, 
and in the hope that, in the dearth of books on Persia, 
it may not be without interest for the public, or 
useless to travellers who may follow my route. 

When, after knocking about in Europe for several 
years, circumstances unexpectedly rendered it neces- 
sary that I should take up my residence in Persia for 
a considerable period, I found that my knowledge of 
that country was of the most meagre description. Beyond 
reading Haji Baba and a Diplomate's Residence in 
Persia, my thoughts and studies had never carried 
me eastwards of Constantinople, and I had merely 
that hazily golden, but, alas ! deceptive idea of the 
East which one gathers from imaginative works, such 
as Vathek and the Veiled Prophet. The Haji 

iv Preface. 

had always appeared to me rather as a highly- drawn 
and amusing caricature than, as it really is, one 
of the most correct pictures of real life, whilst the 
" Diplomate's " pages had left on my mind but a very 
faint impression of Persia and Persians. 

The day will come, I presume, when we shall have 
" Murray's" Guide Books for Central Asia and the 
vast regions which the compilers of English 
Atlases term Independent Tartary. As yet, how- 
ever, we are without these aids to the traveller ; and 
though many excellent works, both historical and 
descriptive, have been written about Persia, we have 
none in the style of those well-known red volumes 
which are the vade-mecum of the British continental 

Time failed me to consult the admirable but 
ponderous volumes of Ker Porter, Malcolm, and 
Kinneir, or even Lady Shiel's excellent narrative of 
her journey to the Persian capital ; * and I was, 
therefore, obliged to make inquiries amongst friends 
and acquaintances as to my route, and the preparations 
necessary for the journey. But Persia was evidently 
a terra incognita to most of my friends ; some of them 
talked of Ispahan as its capital, others had a dreamy 
sort of idea that Tehran was the metropolis, whilst 

* All these works are out of print, and copies of them are difficult to obtain. 


several were totally ignorant of the existence of the 
latter town. 

As to outfit, one gentleman who had passed some 
years of his youth in Iran, recommended me to take 
a supply of watch-glasses and crystal wine-coolers ; 
another, lately returned from it, said an English 
saddle and a portable bed were all the extra kit I 
should require ; and a third, who had sojourned in 
the land for four or five years, hesitated at counselling 
me to provide myself with a supply of brandy and 
sherry, and pronounced a fur coat for the journey to 
be completely superfluous. 

Under these circumstances, it is not surprising 
that I should discover later that I was not as fully 
equipped as I ought to have been, and it may there- 
fore be well to indicate, at once, a few of the neces- 
saries, which my experience leads me to recommend 
to those who may follow in my steps, namely : 

Fowling-piece, revolver, and ammunition ; light 
bedstead (the lightest I know are made in Kussia, 
and occupy little more space than an ordinary gun- 
case) ; sheets, blankets, &c, and waterproof covering ; 
portable India-rubber bath, japanned iron washhand- 
basin, plates and cups ; knives (a large one for the 
pocket, with corkscrew, is most useful), forks and 
spoons ; English saddle, fitted with holsters and 
saddle-bags, and bridle ; portable medicine-chest ; a 

vi Preface. 

small supply of brandy ; preserved meats and soups. 
The' traveller should be prepared for the extremes of 
heat and cold, and accordingly provide himself with a 
pith helmet, strong riding-boots, and breeches ; veils 
and spectacles for protection of the eyes ; several linen 
suits for summer ; fur coat, felt boots (reaching to the 
knee), and a plentiful outfit of woollen and flannel 
clothing for winter. 

The easiest method of reaching Tehran is by the 
Eussian route, and probably the best season for setting 
out is September. Leaving Nishni Novgorod about 
the 15th of that month, there would be time enough 
to visit the Persian capital, Ispahan, Persepolis, 
{Shiraz, Shapoor — in fact, the most interesting places 
in the country — before the cold weather sets in ; and 
from Bushire the traveller might proceed home via 
India, Baghdad, Egypt, or wherever inclination might 
lead him, for the winter. 

In conclusion, I wish briefly to advert to two 
points which stand out rather prominently in the fore- 
ground of my sketches, viz. the moral obliquity of the 
Persian's character, and the fatigues and difficulties of 
travelling in his country and in the Caucasus. 

As regards the first point, it must be borne in 
mind that the Persian's character has been formed, to 
a very great extent, by the system of government 
under which he has so long lived. His natural 



disposition is amiable, intelligent, imaginative, and 
docile ; and it would, therefore, be a source of great 
regret to me if, by dwelling too much on the defects 
of the former and too little on the good qualities of 
the latter, I should have diverted from him the 
sympathy and assistance of which he at this moment 
stands so much in need. 

The winters of 1870 and 1871 were unusually 
dry throughout the country. Very little snow fell, 
and still less rain ; the rivers and springs were 
dried up, the crops failed, and for the last eighteen 
months there has been a famine in the land. 
Hundreds of people have died of starvation, and though 
the harvest this year promises to be a good one, there 
must necessarily be much misery and suffering for 
some time to come. A committee of gentlemen has 
long been engaged in London in collecting subscrip- 
tions and forwarding relief to the sufferers, but the 
appeal thus made has met with but limited success. 
If these pages should enlist the sympathies of any of 
my readers in favour of the Persian Belief Fund, they 
will not have been written in vain. 

With reference to the second point, I, perhaps, 
met with a larger share of fatigue than usually falls 
to the lot of the traveller, partly in consequence of my 
complete ignorance of the country, and partly on 
account of the season of year at which I entered it. 



Fatigue and a certain amount of difficulty there must 
always be ; but those who do not mind roughing it 
will be more than compensated for both : in the 
Caucasus, by the natural beauties of the scenery, in 
Persia, by the novelty of the manners and customs of 
the people, the interesting remains of ancient times, 
and the charm of perfect freedom of movement and 

Vienna, Mm/, 1872. 




Across Europe to Constantinople — The Black Sea — Sinope— Samsoon — 

Trebizonde— Batoum 1 


Poti : Its Importance and Future — Russian Project for connecting Peters- 
burg and Odessa with Turkistan by Steam — The Rion, or Phasis — 
The Skoptsi — Mingrelia — Kutais 14 


Posting in the Caucasus — The Telega and Post-House — Camels — Suram 

— Georgia — Gori — Accidents on the Road — Chapars 28 


The Bragrations — Tiflis — Its Bazaar — The River Kura — Environs — 
Hospitality at Tiflis -Theatre — Georgian Ladies — Cossacks — Cha- 
racter of the Georgians — Schamyl — Present State of the Caucasus — 
Departure for Persia , 37 


The Plain of the Kura and Valley of the Akstaf — Snow — Pass of Dili- 
jan — Lake of Goutche — Legend about its Trout — Erivan 51 


Armenia and Armenians — St. Gregory the Illuminator — Etchmiadzin — 
Traditions relative to the Ark's Resting-place — Mount Ararat — 
Nakhitslievan — Julfa — The Araxes , , 6-i 




Arrival in Persia — Persian Cookery, Towns, Post-houses, and Caravan- 
saries — Oriental Hospitality — Feringhee — Tabreez — General Features 
of the Country — Population — Heir- Apparent to the Throne — 
Government — Visit from an Official Personage — Character of Per- 
sians — The Bab 83 


Departure from Tabreez— Some of the Discomforts of Posting— Turk- 
manchai — Mianeh — Lost in the Snow — Zenjan — Sultania — Kasvin — 
The Assassins — First Impressions of Tehran 108 


Situation and General Appearance of Tehran — A Persian House — 
European Colony — The Telegraph — Food — Wine — Skating — The 
Shah's Practical Jokes — The Persian Army — Hunting and Hawking 
— Horses : 127 


Rhe— TheGuebres — Religion of Zoroaster— The Ramazan and Bairam 
— Bazaars — Persian Women — New Year's Day — The Shah — His 
Palace — Reception of the Diplomatic Body, and Grand Salaam — A 
Debt of Honour „ 148 


Preparations for a Caravan Journey — Start for Ispahan — Valley of the 
Angel of Death — Devils — Room — Kashan — The good Emir — 
Ispahan — Palaces of Forty Pillars and Eight Paradises — Armenian 
Quarter — Shaking Minarets — Rifle-Practice — Manna 170 


Fellek and Chub— Persian Doctors — Yezdicaust — Abadeh — Antelopes 
and Moufflons — Pasargadas — Tomb of Cyrus — Plain of Merdasht — 
Naksh-i-Rustem— Tomb of Darius — Sassanian Bas-Reliefs— Bahram 
Gour and his favourite Wife — Persepolis — Tragic Story of a Lutee 
Bashee— Bendcmir 192 

C 071 tents. xi 



Shiraz— Tombs of Hafiz and Saadi— March Southwards— Partridge-shoot- 
ing— Vale of Wild Almonds— Asylum— Passes of the Old and 
Young Woman — Ruins of Shapoor— Sculptures— Statue of Sapor — 
A Garden at Kazeroon — Environs of Shiraz— The Sword of the 
State — A Nomad Chieftain — Mirza Mahommed Reza 223 


Return Northwards— Second Visit to Persepolis — Naksh-i-Rejeeb — Istakr 
— Oujan — Disagreeable Reception in an Eeliaut Encampment — A 
Flight of Locusts — Pistols versus Daggers — Summer Quarters — 
Persian Ideas of Europe — Massacre of Jews — Trout-fishing and 
Snipe-shooting 252 


A Persian Marriage — Khorassan — Kermanshah — Tag-i-Bostan — The 
Loves of Ferhad and Shireen — Bisitoon — Dancing-Girls — Hamadan 
— Tombs of Esther and Mordecai — Climate — Sunnies and Shiahs — 
Passion-Plays 284 


Tehran to Resht — Enzelli — Ashorada — Turcomans — Baku, Astrakhan, 

and the Volga 316 


Routes 335 

Map shewing JFMmjisey's Routes through the Cwulcclsus anrlper 


Irujra.ved, by James Wyld, GeograpTher to the Qmun, GeogrtJphT.aLJ)ep6t, 11 L12 Charing Cross, Xorulori 

TwbhshecLhy Smith^ld^r & Co 15 Waterloo Flace.Zorulon- 1872. 





Across Europe to Constantinople — The Black Sea — Sinope — 
Samsoon — Trebizonde — Batoum. 

On a cold drizzling November morning in 1865, I 
left the great metropolis shrouded in its congenial fog, 
and rolled down with the mail to Dover. 

The usual inconveniences of the Channel passage 
are but too well known. There was just time on 
landing at the Calais quay to gulp down the pale 
ale which, from the excited manner in which they 
recommend it to all, the white-aproned gargons 
evidently consider a sovereign remedy for the internal 
derangements induced by the passage, when away 
rattled the express to the Belgian frontier and 

1 i 

2 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

French first-class railway- carriages are the least 
convenient in Europe, and French conducteurs, with 
the administrative talent which characterizes their 
nation, take particular care that each compartment 
shall have its full complement, before an extra car 
is added to the train. So, to avoid the inconveniences 
of their huddling system, I made straight for Vienna, 
by way of Cologne and Passau, and there being nothing 
to see and no very agreeable companions to talk to, 
occupied my mind by watching the varied grades of 
deference shown to the traveller as we journeyed 

In France and Belgium the " Oui, Monsieur " and 
" Non, Monsieur" of the officials, pronounced in a 
dry business - like fashion, smacked somewhat of 
the democratic universal - suffrage idiosyncracy of 
the inhabitants of those countries ; further on, as 
we get past Cologne and on to the Rhine, a casual 
" Herr Baron " varies now and then the grating 
monotony of " Ja, mein Herr," and would indicate 
that the doctrine of " fraternite, egalite," &c. has 
not yet effaced from the sluggish German mind 
every landmark of the feudal ages; whilst the salu- 
tations of "Herr Graf," "Euer Gnaden," and, as 
we approach Vienna, " Euer grafliche Gnaden," 
which universally meet the ear in Bavaria and Austria, 
p,re melancholy proofs that the levelling civilization of 
the West has not yet shed its light on the benighted 
people of these truly conservative states, where the 
members of all classes of society still show respect 

The Viennese — Trieste — Antivari. 3 

unmingled with servility to their superiors in the social 
scale, and each man is still content to appear to the 
world as he really is. 

Es gibt nur 'ne Kaiserstadt, 
Es gibt nur 'ne Wien. 

So sing the inhabitants of Vienna ; and they might 
with equal justice add that they, "the Viennese, are 
unique in the world." Such a pleasure -seeking popu- 
lation, and one so easily amused, does not exist else- 
where. Good-humoured, good-natured, not over- 
burdened with education, nor schooled into pedantry, 
like the denizens of the capital which Bismarck has 
made Imperial, but gifted with a natural '"cuteness and 
kindliness of manner quite exceptional in Germany, 
the Viennese merrily pass the time away in their dear 
old Kaiserstadt, intent on enjoying the present and 
perhaps somewhat too careless of the future. 

With a pang of regret I quitted this abode of light 
hearts, and with Strauss's last valse still ringing in 
my ears, was borne along up the beautiful Sammering 
and down past Gratz and Laybach, until a sight of the 
blue waters of the Adriatic notified our approach to 
Trieste. Here I bade adieu to railways, and comfort- 
ably installed on board one of the Austrian Lloyd's 
boats, steamed away down south towards Istamboul. 

Antivari, the port of Scutari, was our first halting- 
place, and here we shipped a foretaste of the East, in 
the shape of a pasha's wife, accompanied by two old 
male attendants and several female slaves. The lady 

4 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

herself was of European parentage, and, as one of my 
female fellow-passengers informed me, possessed much 
more mind than is commonly found in a harem. She 
was pretty too, allowed her face to be seen now and 
then, and spoke French and German. The slaves 
seemed dirty and ill-drest, but not unhappy ; and the 
old male attendants were, I presume, so flabbergasted 
the first day by their mistress's disregard of Koranic 
precept on the subject of veils, that they never showed 
their own visages during the rest of the voyage. 

Though cholera had disappeared from Trieste full 
three weeks before we left it, the enlightened Govern- 
ment of Greece had such a tender regard for the health 
of its subjects, that it still kept up quarantine, and we 
were thus prevented landing at Corfu and Syra. The 
usual gale caught us off Cape Matapan, with the 
exception of Gibraltar, the most southernly point of 
continental Europe, and we consequently missed seeing 
the hermit, who, they say, keeps a solitary look-out 
from its bluff headland o'er the blue waters of the 
Mediterranean. Stormy weather retarded us too in the 
Archipelago, and it was not until the morning of the 
seventh day that we cast anchor in the Golden Horn. 

Twenty-four hours is not much for Constantinople. 
Time enough, however, to visit St. Sophia, to ramble 
through the great bazaar, and walk through Pera to 
Old Stamboul, to have a chat with old friends, and 
eat an excellent dinner at the ambassadorial table. 

The sun shone brightly as we steamed, on the 
17th December, up the Bosphorus. Even then, 

Constantinople— The Bosphorus — The Black Sea. 5 

almost midwinter, the scene was lovely, such as once 
seen can never be forgotten : a perfect paradise, if such 
there be on this earth's crust ; and when at sunset I 
took a farewell look at the fast receding shores of 
Europe, all was calm and still — everything portended 
a fair voyage across the dreaded Black Sea, 

Widely different was the scene which presented 
itself next morning to my waking eyes. We were 
driving along the Asiatic coast ; stern and inhos- 
pitable it looked — bleak rocks rising perpendicularly 
from the water, and succeeded by mountains clothed 
with forests of pine. The land was covered with a 
mantle of snow, while all around the sea was black, 
save where lashed into angry foam by the hurricane. 
The heavens looked like lead, and now and then a 
snow-storm shrouded our vessel in what might be 
termed white darkness. With a perversity which I 
have only witnessed on the Black Sea, the waves came 
dashing in upon us, and almost over us, from all sides, 
and as the vessel pitched and rolled and thumped 
about in the storm, it was difficult to prevent oneself 
being shot out of the cabin windows. Our captain, 
a fine tall Dalmatian, with excessively Pan-Slavist 
tendencies (he showed me the arms of the future 
Slave empire, and his diploma as member of some 
society, which is to effect its constitution), looked 
anxious as, towards dusk, a huge sea took the ship at 
right angles, and deluged our decks from prow to stern. 
As darkness closed in upon us things got worse, and 
he determined to make for Sinope. The difficulty 

6 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

was to find it. Its lighthouse is a wretched concern, 
and snow, hail, and sleet were not calculated to render 
its light more apparent than usual. At length, during 
a fair interval, we got a five minutes' glimpse of it 
some two or three miles off, and, steaming straight 
for it, luckily entered the harbour without accident, at 
about 10 p.m. 

Sinope is stated to have been founded by one of the 
Argonauts, and to have been colonized by Milesians. 
Xenophon and his Greeks, having, on their long home- 
ward march, first come in sight of the Black Sea on 
the heights above Trapezus (Trebizonde), paid a visit 
to Harmene, one of its ports ; and Diogenes and the 
great Mithridates first saw light within its walls. It 
likewise furnished Apelles with a red earth from 
which he compounded one of his four principal 
colours, and has lately become known as the scene of 
the destruction of the Turkish fleet by the Kussians 
during the Crimean War. Strabo speaks of its 
advantageous position as a port. ie It stood," he says, 
"upon an isthmus that joined the peninsula to the 
mainland, having on each side a port where great 
quantities of tunny were taken as they swam along 
the coast from their breeding-ground in the Palus 
Maeotis (Sea of Azoff) to the Bosphorus. The 
peninsula was surrounded by sharp rocks, which made 
all access difficult : the land above the town was very 
fertile, and laid out in beautiful gardens : the city was 
well built and adorned with a place of exercise, a 
market, and magnificent porticoes." 

Sinope — Its Ruins — Grebe- shoo ling, 

As we lay here storm-bound for forty-eight hours, 
I had plenty of time to make comparisons between the 
present and the past — very much in favour of the 
latter. The present town, if indeed worthy of that 
name, is a collection of mean-looking houses, contain- 
ing perhaps 1,000 inhabitants; and a ruinous old 
castle, probably of Genoese construction, which for- 
merly defended the approach to the harbour, is its 
only interesting building. 

All was now covered with snow, and looked bleak 
and cheerless. However, mustering up our courage, 
we went on shore, and walked through a narrow street 
or two, out on to the rising ground above the town, to 
the cemetery — an unenclosed bit of ground, dispropor- 
tionately large for the actual number of inhabitants. 
Here we thought we discovered traces of the magnifi- 
cent porticoes above mentioned, in the shape of slabs 
of white marble and bits of broken columns scattered 
about and peeping here and there out of the soil. 
Returning to our boats, we passed some hours in the 
apparently sole amusement of Sinopians — grebe-shoot- 
ing. Strabo's shoals of tunny are now metamorphosed 
into swarms of grebes of various sorts, and the 
natives derive considerable profit from the sale of 
their skins, which are bought up by a French agent 
for a franc or a franc and a half apiece, and exported 
to Paris to adorn the black-velvet mantles de ces 
dames. We succeeded in bagging several of different 
sizes, and continued the sport next day, until, 
luckily, towards evening the storm subsided, and our 

8 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

Dalmatian captain, to our great joy, hoisted the Blue 

Some ten hours' steaming and we reach Samsoon 
(Amisso of the Greeks), situated close down on the 
waters of a bay backed on the land side by hills of 
considerable altitude; the lower slopes covered with 
olive plantations, while higher up fir-forests stretch 
away into the interior of the country. As at Sinope, 
a Genoese castle is the most picturesque building in 
the town, which we perambulated through half-melted 
snow and much mud. The bazaar is a miserable- 
looking place, containing nothing worth purchasing 
but pheasants at six and woodcocks at two francs the 
brace. Samsoon is, however, a town of considerable 
trade, being a sort of depot of European goods for the 
interior of Asia Minor. Much Turkish tobacco is like- 
wise exported hence to Stamboul and elsewhere, whilst 
a post-road connects it with Mosul and Baghdad. 

A post-road ! Once in Asia, let all preconceived 
ideas and knowledge of highways and byways be dis- 
missed from the mind; let Macadam be forgotten, 
and the results of the labours of parish overseers and 
district boards be consigned to oblivion. Let it be 
distinctly understood that a Turkish or Persian post- 
road has not been made by the hand of man, and that 
his feet alone have contributed to render it what it is — 
a series of parallel tracks, beaten perhaps for centuries 
by the feet of men and quadrupeds, but totally igno- 
rant of the impress of wheels, running straightway 
up hill and down dale, regardless of wind-breaking 

Samsoon — Asiatic Post-roads — Trebizonde. 9 

ascents and neck-brealdng descents, over plains and 
through bridgeless rivers and torrents, from one town 
to another. At intervals varying from ten to thirty 
miles, as the case may be, are villages and post-houses, 
where fresh horses may be procured, the simplest 
necessaries of life obtained, or a halt made. 

Such are the high-roads of those parts of Asia to 
which European civilization has not yet penetrated, 
and they seem to answer pretty well the wants of the 
inhabitants, for few attempts have yet been made to 
ameliorate them ; perhaps on the principle, not long- 
ago prevalent in Spain, that bad roads keep away 
unpleasant visitors, the fallacy of which has been so 
eminently proved by our late expedition to Magdala. 

After this digression upon roads, we resume once 
more our watery way. Calm and bright weather has 
succeeded the storms of two days ago, and we get along 
smoothly and comfortably to Trebizonde, 180 miles 
from Samsoon, having touched during the night at 

" QaXaTTal Qa\aTTa\" shouted the Greeks, as, after 
their long tedious march through the wastes of Asia, 
they viewed once more, from the hills above Trapezus, 
the waters of the Euxine, and they no doubt sang 
many pseans and poured out frequent libations at the 
welcome sight. But " circumstances alters cases," as 
remarked the maid, who had sworn eternal service 
to her mistress, when announcing her approaching 
marriage and giving notice to quit ; and we hailed the 
prospect of leaving salt water behind us for twelve 

10 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

hours with as much joy as Xenophon did his approach 
to it. It was a lovely winter's day, and Trebizonde, 
nestling down on the shore, under the shelter of its 
elevated old castle and crumbling walls, in their turn 
commanded by picturesquely wooded hills, rising amphi- 
theatre-like around the town, quite came up to what 
I had heard of its beautiful position. 

Having travelled from Vienna with Count L , 

first Aide-de-Camp of the Grand Duke Michael, I went 
with him and his family to a capital dejeuner at the 
house of the Eussian Consul-General. And after 
breakfast we all rode through the town and away 
westwards for about three miles, until we reached an 
old Byzantine church, St. Sophia, I believe, by name, 
beautifully situated in a sort of verdant esplanade 
surrounded on the land side by hills, and looking down 
on the now sparkling waters of the sea, some sixty or 
eighty feet below. The church was in process of being 
converted into a mosque, and the pasha of the province, 
a fine tall and portly old Turk with a long white beard, 
was inspecting the works as we rode up. All the 
frescoes, with which the internal walls were covered, were 
being scraped off, all vestiges of the cross destroyed, 
and the exterior of red stone, adorned with a frieze 
from biblical or saintly history, was receiving a sub- 
stantial coating of whitewash. The pasha appeared 
to take much interest in the progress of conversion, 
but found time to address us a few polite phrases. 

Keturning homewards we passed the cemetery, 
thickly planted with tall cedar-trees, and rode up to the 

Converting a Church into a Mosque — Bay of Batoum. 11 

castle, the oldest building in the town, and as usual 
in these parts, attributed to the Genoese. It is in a 
ruinous state ; in its loftiest tower three or four guns 
seemed ready at any moment to descend from their 
carriages ; and neglect and decay were visible every- 
where. After paying a visit to the English consul, 
whose first-born was found standing sentinel-like on a 
terrace in front of the house, waiting for a few shots at 
the usual evening flight of woodcocks, I rejoined my 
friends on board at 8 p.m., and early next morning we 
entered the Bay of Batoum. 

Errors in orthography are inelegant, but generally 
productive of no greater harm than a comical mistake 
or remediable misunderstanding. They may, however, 
have very serious consequences, and my Russian friends 
here related to me an instance of this, which, although 
I must leave to them the responsibility for its historical 
accuracy, ought to be a warning to careless spellers. 
Two streams fall into the Black Sea, they said, at a 
short distance to the east and west of Batoum, and 
the names of these streams are, with the exception of 
one letter, identical. When the frontier line in this 
quarter of the world was being negotiated between 
Russia and Turkey, the former power was naturally 
anxious to include Batoum, the only good harbour on 
the eastern shore of the Euxine, within its territory, 
and, in order to obtain this object, to extend its 
frontier to the most westernly of the two streams. In 
drawing up the treaty, however, that one little letter, 
which alone marked the difference in their names, was 

12 Journeij through the Caucasus and Persia, 

omitted, and the eastern stream became and has 
remained the division between the two countries. 

Kussia would certainly have gained great advan- 
tages by the acquisition of Batoum. It possesses 
naturally the principal requisites of a good harbour. 
There is deep water close into the shore, and the high 
overhanging cliffs of a spur of the Gouriel mountains 
protect it from wind and weather. These facilities for 
the establishment of a naval station and arsenal close 
to the Turkish frontier would, if turned to account, 
have greatly added to her strength in the Black Sea. 
She would have found there, too, a ready-made com- 
mercial port, much better adapted to accommodate a 
trade which may soon take vast proportions, and to 
which I shall presently refer, than any which the work 
of years and the expenditure of millions can ever 
create at Poti. 

At present Batoum contains nothing but some 
squalid-looking huts; but the smooth blue waters of 
its bay and the surrounding quasi-perpendicular rocks, 
glittering in their snowy mantles, looked beautiful on 
this sunny winter's morning. 

Travellers for Poti here leave the steamer which 
has brought them from Constantinople, and embark 
on a smaller one for the rest of the voyage ; but no 
smaller vessel being forthcoming on this occasion, 
time too being precious, our Dalmatian captain agreed 
to take us on to our destination. So after an hour's 
halt for communication with the authorities, we steamed 
out of the harbour, along a low forest-covered coast, 

Batoum — Caucasian Alps — Mingrelian Forest. 13 

and soon caught a first glimpse, far away to the north- 
east, of the great Caucasian Alps, and their tall snow- 
covered peaks sharply defined against the clear blue 
sky. What with examining these with our telescopes, 
watching the evolutions of the myriads of grebe, teal, 
and waterfowl of every description which swarmed 
around us, and drinking, at breakfast, numerous 
bumpers of champagne to the health of our captain of 
Pan-Slavistic tendencies, our three hours' run from 
Batoum passed quickly and pleasantly, until, somewhere 
about noon on the 23rd December, we cast anchor 
about half a mile from the bar of the classical and 
auriferous Phasis. 

Looking eastwards from the deck of our steamer, 
our view embraced a long reach of flat coast extending 
from the Gouriel, which we had passed on the right, 
to the outlying spurs of the great Caucasian chain on 
the left, being the eastern limit of a plain some sixty 
miles by seventy. This plain is covered by the Min- 
grelian Forest, is surrounded, except towards the 
western- or sea side, by high mountains, and is traversed 
from east to west by the Phasis, or Kion, as it is now 
called, which debouches in the Black Sea at Poti. 
Thither we will now proceed. 

14 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 


Poti : its Importance and Future — Russian Project for connect- 
ing Petersburg and Odessa with Turkistan by Steam — The 
Rion, or Phasis — The Skoptsi — Mingrelia — Kutais. 

My Kussian friends were now about to enter their own 
country, so the count donned his A.D.C.'s uniform, 
and we entered, bag and baggage, a barge manned by 
soldiers which had come over the bar to meet us. 
Crossing the bar of the Eion is frequently a dangerous 
proceeding, but we had perfectly calm weather, and 
entering the river without difficulty, rowed a few 
hundred yards up-stream through the forest to what is 
called the town of Poti. The first sight of it recalled 
vividly to my mind Mr. Dickens's picture of Eden. 
The remains of an old Turkish fort, the walls of which 
were fast being demolished, as I afterwards learnt for 
the sake of converting their materials into cement, 
three or four oblong wooden houses, painted white and 
green and raised on log platforms a few feet above 
the marshy, oozy soil, and a few miserable-looking 
huts, all scattered at random, as it were, along the 
left bank of the stream, hardly came up to my idea of a 
town, and, for a moment, I was under the delusion that 

Toivn of Poti — Hotel Golchide — Soil. 15 

we had only a faubourg before us. Only for a moment, 
however, for running alongside one of the white and 
green houses, we were ushered by its owner into the 
" Hotel Colchide," and out of another appeared the town 
commandant in full fig to pay his respects to the A.D.C. 

The internal accommodation of our new abode 
corresponded entirely with its external appearance ; 
walls and floors were completely bare, and as to 
furniture there was as little as possible. We had 
luckily had a good breakfast on board, and that and 
our champagne libations induced us to shut our eyes 
to the dark side of that or any other picture. Our 
French host and hostess, too (where does one not find 
French hotel-keepers ?) , though apparently somewhat 
fever- stricken, were obliging ; and so, having ordered 
everything that could be got for dinner, off we set in 
our barge to inspect the works which the Russian 
Government have commenced with a view to con- 
structing a port. Before we get there, however, it 
were w T ell to complete the picture of the town by 
adding that, at right angles to the portion already 
described, there is a street — that is, a certain number of 
wooden structures, houses, huts and cabins, dotted down 
in the forest in two straight lines, with a muddy interval 
between them — and that here and there, hidden amongst 
the trees, there are others of a similar style. 

The soil, on which stand these diverse habita- 
tions, is here, as indeed throughout the whole of this 
plain, fertile to a degree and completely stoneless, but 
marshy and oozy in consequence of its very slight 

16 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

elevation above the water-level. It is covered with a 
most luxurious vegetation ; magnificent forest-trees of 
many varieties, festooned to the topmost branches by 
the wild vine, and a tangled and impenetrable mass of 
brushwood and jungle below, are as evident proofs of 
Nature's largess in this region as they are truthful 
indicators of the prevalence of deadly fever and ague. 
The forest comes right up to, or rather into, the town, 
and if I add a small river steamer and a few idle barges 
and small craft, moored along the banks of the stream, 
I have mentioned all worthy of notice at Poti. 

A short distance above the town, the river runs its 
waters into two channels, separated from each other 
by a small delta some hundred yards across, and it is 
on the northern of these — the town being on the 
southern channel — that the Government are attempting 
to form a port. The great difficulty to be surmounted 
is the want of water on the bar, outside which there is, 
at no great distance, a depth of thirty feet, rapidly 
increasing to sixty and one hundred and twenty feet. 
It is proposed therefore, as the colonel of engineers who 
directs the works informed us, to drive the bar into the 
sea, and, with a view to this object, wooden piers, 
several hundred yards in length, have been constructed 
on each side of the river's mouth, confining the 
stream and rendering the current more powerful. 
Though very rough and incomplete, these piers* — which 
are to be replaced by quays of stone as soon as the 

* Destroyed by a storm in 1867, and being now replaced, as I 
am informed, by cast-iron ones. 

Plan for a Port — Railway to Tiflis. 17 

railway now in course of construction towards Tiflis is 
capable of bringing down the necessary material — have 
already had the effect of deepening the channel to a 
certain extent, as appeared from the soundings shown 
me, and the colonel was confident that he would 
finally have seventeen feet of water in his port. If 
this hope be realized, Poti will to some extent com- 
pensate the Eussians for the non-acquisition of 
Batoum, and may become a place of a good deal of 
importance in a commercial point of view. Indeed 
my sanguine Russian acquaintances already talked of 
it as the future Liverpool of the Euxine. 

As a means of developing the resources of the 
Caucasus this port is of the utmost necessity, and a 
railway connecting it with Tiflis is hardly less so. 
The works for the latter have been carried on for some 
years by the Government, who employ a considerable 
portion of their army on them, under the direction of 
half-a-dozen English engineers. But little progress 
had, however, yet been made ; and though the em- 
bankment was far advanced in the direction of Kutais,* 
about seventy-five miles from the sea, no bridges or 
stonework had been commenced, and it was calcu- 
lated that it would require five years to finish the line 
to Tiflis. Thence it is to be prolonged to Baku on 
the Caspian, a distance of about 300 miles ; and when 
this is terminated, Russia will have a line of steam 
communication from Odessa and her southern Eu- 

* The railway is now opened from Poti to Quiril. May, 1872, 


18 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

ropean provinces to the port of Astrabad at the south- 
eastern corner of the Caspian Sea. 

With the prospect of soon possessing the whole 
of Turkestan and Tartary, by the acquisition of 
the Khanats of Khiva and Bokhara, and the vast 
steppes which separate them from the northern 
Persian frontier, the Eussian Government must 
be most anxious to complete this line of railway, 
which will form the most important link in a long 
chain of projected steam communication with those 
distant regions. Steamboats, touching at all the 
ports on the southern coast of the Caspian, at present 
run from Astrakan to Ashorada, a small island 
belonging to Russia at its south-eastern extremity. 
Were the Caucasian Railway and Port of Poti com- 
pleted, all the trading operations of Europe with the 
northern and north-eastern provinces of Persia would 
inevitably follow this route, instead of being, as at 
present, carried on by means of caravans of camels 
and mules, which tramp wearily up and down the 
1,100 miles between Tehran and Trebizonde. 

Another line of steamers is to be established 
between Astrakan, Baku, &c. and the north-eastern 
corner of the Caspian ; whence, according to a 
pamphlet lately published by General Romanoffski, 
who commanded in Turkestan for some years, three 
roads are to start eastwards. One will be carried 
from the Bay of Krasnovod along the old bed of 
the Amou Darya to the Sea of Aral. Another 
will cross from the Mertvi Kultuk Bay to Tcherny- 

Russian Steam Communication. 19 

cheff on the same sea. Neither of these routes 
presents any great physical difficulties to the construc- 
tion of railroads. From the Sea of Aral steamers will 
eventually run up the Gihon or Syr-i-Darya ; * and 
thus during summer, or as long as the Volga and 
Amou Darya are navigable, St. Petersburg and Odessa 
will be placed in direct steam communication with 
Khojend. Troops may then be moved from the Volga 
to Turkestan in a fortnight, the army of the Caucasus 
will become the reserve for that province, and Russia 
will find, what she professes is her only object in these 
Central Asian conquests, a vast outlet for her manu- 
factures. Between 1825 and 1850 her trade with this 
part of the world increased 300 per cent., and is no 
doubt capable of great development. All sorts of 

* In connection with this subject the Golos published an article, 
sometime last year, of considerable interest. Goods, it stated, are 
now sent from Samara (on the Volga) to Orenberg, and thence to 
Fort No. 1, on the Syr-i-Darya by land, a distance of 1,500 versts, 
through barren and uninhabited steppes. Were the Caspian route 
open, they would be shipped to the Bay of Krasnovod, and thence be 
forwarded by water, via the old and present beds of the Amou 
Darya and Syr-i-Darya to Bokhara and Tashkend. In 1868, 
Russian trade with Bokhara reached the sum of 20,000,000 roubles, 
but was not expected to increase, the population of the Khanat being 
little more than 1,000,000. Around Kashgar there was a region, 
cut off from China by the late revolution, which contained 20,000,000 
inhabitants. There was the market for Russia, as plenty of cotton 
could be grown there, and there were no manufactories of any sort. 
The trade with Tashkend, in the same year, amounted to 30,000,000 
roubles, and could be much developed. 

Steamers already (May, 1872) ply on the Syr-i-Darya, and coal 
has been discovered in the vicinity. 

20 Journey throuyh the Caucasus and Persia. 

cotton — as good, it is affirmed, as that of the United 
States — can be grown in Turkestan ; much silk is 
produced there; coal exists; and there is a probability 
of the discovery of gold and silver. 

These are some of the more remote possibilities 
which are dependent on the completion of the Poti, 
Tiflis, and Baku Railway ; its immediate effect in 
developing the resources of the Caucasus itself would 
be equally great. The forests of Mingrelia and Imeritia 
contain abundance of fine timber ; their plains are 
capable of producing cotton, hemp, and tobacco ; the 
vine is indigenous ; the finest walnut-wood grows on 
their hills, and underneath them lie hidden vast 
treasures of mineral wealth. Apropos of walnut-wood, 
a traveller for one of the largest furniture manufactories 
in Paris, whom I met at Tiflis, told me that as it was no 
longer to be found in Europe, his firm had sent him there 
to procure a supply, which he had obtained, but did not 
know how to forward to France. Eventually it was 
sent to the Caspian in bullock-carts, then up the 
Volga, then down the Don, and so via the Sea of 
Azoff and Black Sea to Marseilles. 

It would appear that, in very ancient days, the 
products of the East found their way to Europe 
through the Caucasus. Pliny thus describes their 
route. "Arrived at Bactra (Balk) the merchandise 
descends the Icarus as far as the Oxus, and thence is 
carried down to the Caspian. It then crosses that sea 
to the mouth of the Cyrus (Kura), where it ascends the 
river, and on going ashore is transported by land for 

Resources of the Caucasus — Ancient Trade Route. 21 

five days to the banks of the Phasis (Biou), where it 
embarks once more and is conveyed clown to the 
Euxine." From this statement it is apparent that 
both the Rion and the Kura were then much deeper 
than at the present day, for instead of there being 
merely five days' land journey between the points 
where they cease to be navigable, sixteen full marches 
must be reckoned. A further proof of the change 
that has taken place in their beds and the volume of 
their waters, may be inferred from the facts that the 
galleys of Pompey ascended the Rion, and that Seleucus 
Nicator had, some 2,000 years ago, a project for uniting 
the Euxine and Caspian by means of a canal.* Such 
a project would hardly have been conceived had not 
these rivers then afforded greater facilities for naviga- 
tion than they do at present. 

Meanwhile innocent, no doubt, of all speculations 
like the above as to the future importance of Poti, 
750 soldiers were working away at the harbour, 
sawing up timber in a steam-mill, probably the first 
steam-engine of any sort in the Caucasus, driving in 
piles, &c. There we will leave them to return in our 
barge to dinner at the " Colchide." 

The commissariat resources of Poti are fortunately 
superior to those of Dickens's " Eden; " they had all 
been put in requisition by our hostess, and a tolerable 
meal was the result. Our host, who waited on us, 

* The idea of a canal between the two seas has again been 
broached in the Russian papers, but, I should say, without any 
prospect of being realized. May, 1872. 

22 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

being of a speculative turn of mind, had led a some- 
what adventurous life, dabbling a little in all sorts of 
enterprises. Gold-seeking had been the last, and he 
showed us some diminutive nuggets, varying in size 
from a pin's head to a split pea, the produce of his 
searches in the sands of the Phasis ; a few droppings in 
fact of the precious metal which a modern Munchausen 
would say had fallen from Jason's fleece. 

About 11 a.m. next day we were all ready for a 
start in a small steamer, which we hired for the 
moderate sum of 400 francs for the sixty or seventy 
miles' trip up the river ; when at the last moment it 
was discovered that our passports, taken from us on 
our arrival by the police authorities (for Poti in its 
misery has a police-force, and, maybe, quite a 
hierarchy of other authorities), had never been 
restored. A soldier was at once despatched for them, 
but returned saying the office was closed : so we started 
without them, and received them next morning by an 
express on horseback. Had I been alone, I presume 
I should never have seen mine again. 

The Eion winds sluggishly through the flat forest- 
covered plain. Its waters are shallow and slimy, 
swarming at this winter season with myriads of wild- 
fowl of every description — grebes, gray-duck, teal, &c. 
- — which rose singly, in twos and threes, or in vast 
flocks, as we slowly steamed up the river. Its banks 
are fringed with lofty trees, festooned with tangled 
masses of luxuriant creepers, and with an impassable 
jungle of thorny undergrowth. Our steamer, a very 

The Bion — The Skoptsi — Military Encampment. 23 

tiny affair, drawing some three feet of water, was 
manned by members of that incomprehensible sect, the 
Skoptsi, whose tenets enjoin self-mutilation. It is 
possible, though I never heard it so stated, that they 
entertain other notions, as repugnant to imperialism 
as this extraordinary practice is subversive of the laws 
of nature ; however that may be, the Russian Govern- 
ment do not tolerate their residence in Russia Proper, 
and, when discovered there, they are packed off to end 
their days on the Rion and other places in the 
Caucasus, whilst many of them seek a home at 
Bucharest and other places in the principalities. The 
specimens of this sect which I saw were fine-looking 
men, much cleaner, better dressed, and with a more 
well-to-do look than their less self-denying compeers ; 
and I was told that they were equally superior to the 
latter in thrift, industry, and sobriety. The most highly- 
respected converts are those who join the sect with 
wives and a family. 

About 4 p.m. we came to an anchor, and I 
accompanied the A.D.C. through mud and snow to 
inspect a regiment encamped in the forest, about two 
miles from the river, and employed on the railway. 
The men were lodged in wooden huts, thatched with 
branches — some 200 men to each hut. Their aspect 
was decidedly repulsive, for the muddiness of the 
place had communicated itself to their fatigue-dress 
and general appearance ; the overcrowded huts seemed 
to have no ventilation, so that what with the bad air 
generated in them and the smoke of their large wood 

24 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia, 

fires, the atmosphere was anything but agreeable. 
Outside, the camp was not cheery; half-melted snow, 
and a sea of black oozy mud, with now and then a 
dangerously deep pool of the same, being the general 
features : something like the camp of the Allies before 
Sevastopol, I fancy, without the excitement. A con- 
siderable portion of the railway embankment had been 
completed, after visiting which we retraced our steps 
in the dark to our steamer. A pretty fair dinner some- 
what reconciled us to a hard berth in our clothes on the 
cabin table. 

There is one advantage connected with this species 
of couch. One rises from it even in mid- winter without 
reluctance ; there is no inducement to turn round and 
have another snooze ; the sluggard would have been 
cured of his sloth had he been forced to sleep on a deal 
plank, and there was consequently no merit in being 
on deck at sunrise. It was Christmas morning, a 
most orthodox one, too. There had been a sharp 
frost during the night, and, as the sun rose in the clear 
blue sky, the snow-covered trees and ground sparkled 
and glittered merrily. Coming down from their inland 
feeding -ground, myriads of wild-fowl were hastening 
towards the sea, and, as we steamed slowly up stream 
towards our destination, the river seemed alive with the 
feathery tribe. 

The scenery was similar to that of the previous 
day. We were still threading our way through the 
Mingrelian forest, amidst lofty trees crested with 
snow-covered garlands of wild vine, and, at rare 

The Mingrelian Forest — Russian Travelling. 25 

intervals, cleared patches of ground which the presence 
of a log-hut on piles allowed one to infer were under 
cultivation. Few inhabitants or signs of life were, how- 
ever, visible on shore, until, after passing a spur of the 
Gouriel chain which frowns boldly over the river, we 
came in sight of Maran, a considerable village and 
head-quarters of the Skoptsi in this part of the 

Here we left our steamer : and, though the poorest 
of its species I ever embarked on, being somewhat 
inferior to a Thames tug, it was not without regret 
that we bade adieu for many a long month to the 
most ordinary indication of European civilization, the 
steam-engine. The Count's travelling- carriages were 
in waiting, and after seeing our baggage piled on a 
couple of waggons, and the loss of a good deal of 
time and much unmusical vociferation in Eussian, off 
we went about sunset. Each carriage had a team of 
six puny little horses, four wheelers and two in front ; 
one of the latter bearing a native, and the whole team 
being driven by another native perched on the footboard, 
just below the count and myself, who were seated on 
the box. " Poshol ! " " poshol ! " " Hup ! " " hup ! " 
shrieked the driver, and well wrapped in our furs, 
away we went over a flat macadamized road, at a pace 
which carried us over the twenty-seven miles in three 
hours and landed us in Kutais about supper-time. 

A tall handsome colonel of Cossacks, in the 
elegant uniform of his regiment, dark maroon caftan, 
and quite an arsenal of silver-mounted cartridge- 

26 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

cases on each breast, welcomed us with truly Russian 
hospitality (of which more anon) to an excellent meal, 
after which I was shown to a room engaged for me at 
the hotel. My day was not yet at an end, however, 
for in the saloon or coffee-room I found a couple of 
English engineers, employed on the railway, celebrating 
Christmas with punch and songs ; in singing the one 
and drinking the other, they were ably seconded by a 
number of Russian officers, and the arrival of a new 
comer necessitated the emptying of a fresh bowl of a 
liquor so congenial to the tastes of both nations. 

Kutais, the chief town of Colchis, where Jason's 
long search was rewarded by the acquisition of the 
Golden Fleece, and where, to his discomfort, he met 
that veriest of tartars, Medea, is now the capital of 
Imeritia. Beautifully situated on the banks of the 
Phasis — here no longer the sluggish stream we quitted 
on issuing from the Mingrelian Forest at Maran, but 
a healthy mountain torrent — it is half- surrounded by 
picturesque hills and contains some 6,000 inhabitants. 
Its broad streets smack of Russian occupation, whilst 
its bazaar reminds us of its former possessors and their 
Asiatic origin. 

From the heights overlooking the town, fine views 
are obtained of the rich country trending away towards 
Mingrelia. The surrounding district is most fertile ; 
cotton of fair staple, wine which is drinkable and of 
course capable of much improvement, and smokeable 
tobacco, being some of its products ; whilst flax 
(Herodotus I believe speaks of the excellence of 

Kutais : its fine Site and fertile Country. 27 

Colchian linen) might be grown to any extent. 
Imeritian women have long been celebrated for their 
beauty. Jason was no greenhorn, but a man who had 
travelled far and seen much, and therefore we may 
presume that Medea's charms were not inconsiderable ; 
great too were the prices paid in the marts of 
Stamboul for the fair slaves of Colchis, and the present 
generation does not belie its repute, though the wdntry 
season and several inches of snow in the streets 
greatly curtailed my opportunities of obtaining ocular 
demonstration of the fact. The climate is good : 
snow falls exceptionally, and, though the summer 
heats are great, they are free from the feverish 
elements which prevail in Mingrelia and along the 
eastern coast of the Euxine. Kutais therefore may 
have an "Avenir." 

28 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 


Posting in the Caucasus — The Telega and Post-House — 
Camels — Suram — Georgia — Gori — Accidents on the Road 
— Chapars. 

The traveller who, never having left the great high- 
roads of Europe, is accustomed to well-padded railway 
carriages, first-rate steam-boats, or, at the worst, com- 
fortable diligences and fine smooth roads, elegant 
hotels, restaurants, and buffets, would do well, on 
undertaking a posting trip during the winter in Eussia, 
to forget such luxuries, and make up his mind to bear 
with equanimity the numerous trials and hardships 
which await him in a half-civilized country. A large 
stock of patience, good-humour, and robust health, are 
necessary to surmount them, and without these quali- 
ties he had better remain at home. 

The "telega" is the vehicle generally used in 
posting. In the Caucasus it may be described as an 
oblong wooden box of the roughest sort, placed, with- 
out springs, upon four wheels, and capable of holding 
one traveller and his traps most uncomfortably. Even 
on the best of roads the jolting of such a machine would 

Travelling Post in the Caucasus. 29 

effectually dissipate all idea of comfort ; on the very 
bad ones of the Caucasus it is simply beyond descrip- 
tion. Bedded in straw, huddled in furs and wrappers, 
exposed to driving rains, pelting sleet and spattering 
mud, all control of one's actions ceases from the 
moment the yamtchik, or driver (whose retention of 
his seat on a narrow board in front has always appeared 
a miracle to me,) takes possession of the reins ; all 
one's energies are thenceforward devoted to preventing 
oneself being jerked out of the waggon, or crushed 
by one's portmanteau breaking away from its fixings. 
Ventre- a-terre is the pace, maintained if possible 
throughout the stage, irrespective of ascent or descent, 
ruts, holes, road, or no road. A friend of mine once 
performed a journey after this fashion from Tiflis to 
St. Petersburg in nine consecutive days and nights ; 
on his arrival at his destination, he was lifted more 
dead than alive from his telega : but habit is a second 
nature, and a journey of sixty or seventy hours in one 
of these vehicles comes quite natural to a Eussian. 
One stage is, however, sufficient to make a stranger 
hail with delight his arrival at a post-house. 

An average specimen of the latter contains a couple 
of travellers' -rooms, each furnished with a wooden 
tressel, a fireplace or stove, and, exceptionally, a chair 
and a table. The windows have frames, and some- 
times glass in them. The post-master is obliged to 
supply wood for heating the stove once, at a fixed 
price ; if more is required, at any price he likes to 
charge. He must further provide a " samovar," i. e. 

30 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

an urn, heated from the centre with charcoal, and the 
best of all inventions for procuring a speedy supply of 
hot water. With these luxuries the traveller, whose 
ideas of travel are indissolubly connected with the well- 
padded railway-carriage, first-class saloon cabin, and 
luxurious hotel, will at once feel himself quite at 
home, and pass a most enviable night ! Provided with 
the necessaries I have indicated, he unpacks his 
bed and bedding, food and drink, and necessaire de 
voyage ; he makes his tea and eats his supper. He 
is lord of all he surveys, and can sleep as long as he 
listeth, without fear of disturbance ; for post-master 
and post-servant are not intrusive : they don't press 
their services on their guests, and generally brillent 
par leur absence. 

If anxious to push on at once, he will always have 
time to make his tea and drink it without scalding his 
mouth, for the time gained by the ventre-a-terre pace 
is more than lost by the inexplicable delays of the 
post-house — delays which even the triple-sealed Pada- 
rojna (Government order for horses) can hardly curtail. 
As these three seals are only given to Government 
couriers and employes, the ordinary traveller must 
content himself with two, and submit himself to further 
delay. If unfurnished with any species of Padarojna, 
he had better perform his journey on foot. 

Travelling with an A.D.C. of the governor of the 
country, I escaped some of the discomforts just 
mentioned, but even under these most favourable 
circumstances on nallait pas comme sur des roulettes. 

A Night in a Post-house — Mountain Pass. 31 

Leaving Kutiiis in a snow-storm on the 27th, we were 
four hours in performing our first stage, and the snow 
still continuing, and having completely obliterated all 
traces of the road, it was then judged prudent to await 
the dawn; so I thus had an early opportunity of 
becoming acquainted with the wooden tressel and 

Next morning the storm had cleared, and we 
drove through a beautiful country along winding 
affluents of the Kion, and through hills, covered, I was 
told, with rhododendron and azalia, and crested here 
and there with ruined castles and churches. One stage 
was over the worst of roads : nothing, it seemed to me, 
but a series of ruts, holes, streamlets, &c. The jolting, 
even in my friend's comfortable travelling carriage, 
was intolerable. After this we began to ascend towards 
the Col de Suram, a mountain pass, some 3,000 feet 
high. Henceforward the road was pretty good, though 
too narrow for much traffic, or, indeed, for the little 
that exists. 

In one of its narrowest parts an incident occurred 
which revolutionized all my pre-conceived notions 
of the habits of that most mysterious of beasts, 
the camel. I say mysterious, because I have always 
heard that he is unknown in a wild state. What, then, 
is his history ? Has he always been protected by the 
hand of man since the deluge ? All other beasts of 
burden are found in some quarter of the globe in a 
state of nature. The wild ass scours the deserts of 
Khorassan ; the horse careers at freedom on the vast 

32 Journeij through the Caucasus and Persia. 

plains of South America ; we have the wild elephant 
and the wild ox. But the camel, who has heard of a 
wild camel ? The author of the simile, " The Ship of 
the Desert," ought to be proud of the success of his 
definition. It has so indissolubly connected its subject 
with burning sands and fiery deserts that the ordinary 
European mind finds it almost impossible to conceive 
a desert without a camel, or a camel without a desert. 
Profound astonishment therefore seized me in that 
narrow bit of road on the Snram Pass, — a precipice 
and low stone parapet on one side, a perpendicular 
wall of rock on the other — at the sight of a long string 
of desert ships coming scrambling and shambling down 
the pass towards us in eight inches of snow. Astonish- 
ment yielded to disgust as, on closer acquaintance with 
the brute, a further pre-conceived notion of his moral 
qualities was likewise dissipated. There was just 
sufficient space to allow of our passage, and the 
yamtchik accordingly drove his team as close to the 
parapet as possible, on the supposition that the gentle 
and patient beasts would pass quietly on the other 
side. Not at all : the leader of the string planted 
himself right in front of us in the centre of the road, 
and there he stood, whilst his followers crowded after 
as far as their leading strings — each camel's head being 
tethered to his antecedent's tail — would allow, and all 
progress became impossible. In vain the drivers 
coaxed, swore, and belaboured : groans, grunts, and 
screams were the only response ; until at last, having 
no desire to pass the night in the snow, as a last 

A String of Camels — Nature of the Beast, 33 

resource we succeeded by our united efforts in lifting 
the off- wheels of our vehicle on to the parapet, and 
thus rewarded the obstinacy of our opponents by letting 
them have their way. 

Mr. Palgrave, in his interesting book on Arabia, 
has most truly portrayed the moral qualities of the 
camel, and my experience of the beast fully coincides 
with his description. More obstinate than the mule, 
the camel is likewise much less intelligent. Patience 
is not one of his virtues, for he protests to the best of 
his ability against the slightest imposition. Make 
him lie down, place a feather on his pack, and he 
will groan and scream as much as if he were 
receiving a load of three hundred- weight. He is 
stupid to a degree ; give him his liberty, and he won't 
know what to do with it. He is, further, revengeful, 
and harbours rancour in his breast. He is a fool, an 
ass, and a brute. 

Having thus vented our spleen, we drive on through 
the snow and the cold night wind, over the top of the 
pass to the post-house, where deep potations of hot tea in 
glasses and with a squeeze of lemon instead of cream, 
soon warm our half-frozen blood ; and where, wrapped 
in our furs, we pass another middling sort of night on 
the wooden tressel. Glass in the windows to-night. 

The summit of the Suram chain, just surmounted, 
forms the boundary between Imeritia and Georgia — 
two provinces different as night from day in their 
natural features. Here we bid adieu to forests and 
undergrowth and luxurious vegetation, to travel for 


34 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

hundreds of miles over bare brown plains amidst 
arid mountains and bald peaks — a land where nature 
sleeps. A mantle of snow, however, now concealed 
these features and necessitated an early start next 
morning ; for we have eighteen hours' work, barring 
accidents, to Tiflis, and there may be camels on the 

A gradual descent of five or six hours through a 
bleak and inhospitable region, and we reach our first 
Georgian town, Gori, prettily situated on a slight 
elevation overlooking the vast plain of the Kura, and 
in full view of the great Caucasian chain, and Elburz, 
its loftiest peak, where poor Prometheus paid the 
penalty for being in advance of the world, to the 
north. Mud walls and square turrets still surround 
the town, indicative of the insecurity which prevailed 
before the country came into the hands of its present 
rulers. Descending further into the plain, the prospect 
of reaching Tiflis becomes problematical. The warm 
sun has melted the snow, and as evening darkens into 
night, frost sets in again and the road becomes a mass 
of ice. As long as it is flat the horses keep their legs, 
God knows how, and we get along; but at the first 
insignificant hill the foremost of our three carriages 
comes to a standstill. In vain the merciless yamtchik 
applies his punishing thong ; his team, shod with the 
round flat Asiatic shoe, slips, flounders, and finally 
succumbs in a heap. 

Along the high-roads of the Caucasus there are, at 
intervals of fourteen or fifteen miles, stations of what 

Town of Gori — Mounted Guards. 

may be called mounted rural guards. Chapar, Persian 
for courier, is the name still given them, and their 
duties consist in keeping the peace and escorting 
travellers who can exhibit to them orders to that 
effect. They are recruited from the natives, I believe, 
fairly mounted, armed with native-made rifles, which 
they carry slung in buffalo-hide cases on their 
shoulders, and the long knife, common to every 
Caucasian, and they wear the Cossack costume and 
paposh, a species of low busby, and a huge mantle 
of buffalo -skin called a bourka. I never had an 
opportunity of testing their courage, and have always 
heard that in case of attack, especially by superior 
numbers, they would make themselves scarce; but 
they are certainly useful in case of accidents to 
carriage or horses. 

We had six of these gentry with us, and two of 
them at once cantered off to the nearest village in 
search of assistance, and soon returned with some 
twenty or thirty peasants. The horses were taken 
out and the carriages dragged to the top of the 
hill, or until we reached even ground and were again 
enabled to resume our ordinary pace. But if our 
horses were unable to drag us up hill, they were 
equally incapable of guiding us down ; and as, for the 
best part of a stage, the road runs along the banks of 
the Kura, there was considerable danger in descending 
steep inclines of our being shot into its icy waters. 
Again and again were we obliged to unyoke our teams, 
attach ropes to the back-springs and axles, and by hang- 

36 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

ing on, chapars, travellers, and peasants, like so many 
living drags, steer our vehicles slowly to the bottom. 
In ordinary winters difficulties of this nature seldom 
occur (there are others no doubt in their stead), for 
the valley of the Kura enjoys a very mild climate, but 
the winter of 1865-6 was particularly severe, and 
caused me here and during the rest of my journey to 
Tehran much more discomfort and delay than it is to 
be hoped usually fall to the traveller's lot. Our 
progress under the above circumstances was not great, 
but after passing a good portion of the night in the 
way just described, we at last, when within two stages 
of our destination, left the snow behind us, and, 
resuming our ventre-a-terre pace, at three in the 
morning clattered over the rough pavement of Tiflis. 
Half-an-hour later we were landed safely at my friend's 
hospitable table, and a hot supper with copious libations 
of the Eussian's favourite wine, champagne, erased 
from our minds, for the moment at least, all recollec- 
tion of the petty annoyances of the day. 

( 37 ) 


The Bkagrations — Tiflis — Its Bazaar — The River Kura — 
Environs — Hospitality at Tiflis — Theatre — Georgian 
Ladies — Cossacks — Character of the Georgians — Sohamyl 
— Present State of the Caucasus — Departure for Persia. 

Tiflis is the capital of Georgia, which in 1801 became 
a Kussian province, but was, previous to that date, an 
independent kingdom, under the sway of the most 
ancient dynasty in the world. The family traditions 
of the Bragrations trace their origin to King David ; 
and it is evidently with reference to these traditions 
that Marco Polo states, in the history of his travels, 
which he dictated in his Genoese prison in the last 
years of the thirteenth century, that " in Giorgia hae 
un re, il quale si chiama sempre David Melek, cioe a 
dire in Francesco David Ee." * " Anticamente," adds 
this quaint old traveller, " a tutti gli re che nascono 

* The text quoted is that of the Crusca, transcribed by Michell 
Ormanni, who died in 1309. Marco dictated in French,^ but an 
Italian translation was published almost immediately after the 
appearance of the original. 

" In Georgia the king is always called David Melek, i.e. King 
David. Formerly all the kings of that country were born with the 
effigy of an eagle under the right shoulder." 

38 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

in quella provincia (Giorgia) nasceva un segno d'aquila 
sotto la spalla diritta." Though I frequently met a 
couple of scions of this ancient house, it was of course 
impossible to ascertain whether the sign of the eagle 
still graces their backs : its imperial neighbour perhaps 
no longer brooks the poor bird's existence even in 
effigy. One member of the family bears the title of 
Prince of Georgia, and remains faithful to the costume 
of his country — very broad inexpressibles, a plain caftan 
of dark material, secured by a handsome belt mounted 
with silver ornaments, the inevitable dirk, and a bonnet 
resembling the Polish cap. He is a handsome, 
agreeable man, but somewhat too fond of piping 
melodies on a silver flute, his inseparable companion. 

The town, which contains some 60,000 Eussian, 
Georgian, Armenian, Persian, Jewish, German, and 
French souls, occupies a long stretch of uneven ground 
on both sides of the river Kura, and is almost sur- 
rounded by an amphitheatre of brown barren hills, 
from the tops of which there is a fine view of the great 
Caucasian chain. It is a strange mixture of Asiatic 
and European architecture, and yet hardly European ; 
for though its modern quarter, containing the Grand- 
Ducal palace, the theatre, public buildings, and the 
residences of the Russian authorities, civil and military, 
is laid out in broad streets and open squares, still the 
overhanging red roofs and projecting balconies of the 
houses, and more especially their bright green and blue 
walls, bear a decidedly Muscovite stamp. 

The old part of the town is thoroughly Asiatic — 

Tiflis — Its Architecture and Population. 39 

mud or sun-baked brick houses, with flat roofs and an 
almost complete absence of windows, narrow, unpaved 
lanes and alleys, and vaulted bazaars, being the promi- 
nent features. Here are the principal shops and 
mercantile depots; here too is all the life of Tiflis. 
A thorough motley it is: the stately Persian with 
high lambswool hat and flowing jubbah,* the stolid 
Armenian, and lethargic Georgian, jostle against the 
Cossack and the Frank; the Russian lady, in the 
latest fashions from Paris, elbows the white-veiled 
figure of her Armenian sister and the dark blue inscru- 
table form of the denizen of the harem ; long strings 
of camels silently thread their way through the throng, 
heavily-laden mules jingle their bells and chains, 
troops of unbridled donkeys demurely follow their 
leader. A babel of tongues salutes the ear — " Salam 
aleikum," " Zdrastwuyte," "Bonjour," " Guten Mor- 
gen." Here are vendors praising the quality of their 
goods, purchasers depreciating the same, bargaining 
and haggling on all sides — a scene, in fact, which can 
only be realized by one who has visited the confines of 
Europe and Asia. 

The Kura, a rapid-flowing, impetuous river, cuts 
the town in two parts, as we have seen, and is traversed 
by several bridges, the most elegant and modern of 
which bears the name of Woronzoff, a former Governor- 
General. Chardin, who travelled through the Cau- 
casus on his way to the Court of Abbas the Great 

* A species of mantle, generally of broad-cloth, descending to 
the ankles. 

40 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

in the beginniDg of the seventeenth century, and the 
history of whose travels is as interesting from his 
remarks on men and things as it is amusing from the 
quaintness of his style and the naivete of his anec- 
dotes, speaks thus of the river Kura : " C'est sur ce 
fleuve Kur que Cyrus, ayant ete expose en son enfance, 
sans y etre submerge, il en prit son nom, au rapport 
des anciens historiens." 

Without stopping to consider what amount of 
credit can be given to the legendary dicta of these 
" anciens historiens," amongst whom is Herodotus, — 
though he does not mention the exact spot where the 
infant Cyrus was abandoned — we may presume that 
here, amidst the arid brown hills which skirt the 
valley of the Kura, was passed, in the shepherd's tent, 
the first youth of the great founder of the Persian 
empire. A few months hence, and we shall see his 
last resting-place in the distant plain of Pasargadse, 
and again find his name immortalized in the appel- 
lation, Kurab (Persian- water of Cyrus), still borne by 
the stream which flows past the sparse remains of his 
once proud capital. 

To judge from present appearances, the shepherd 
must have had some difficulty in providing for an 
extra mouth, for one is somewhat at a loss to imagine 
what flocks can find to eat on these hills. Around 
Tiflis their monotonous brown colouring assumes, I 
was told, for a week or two during spring, a sickly 
tint approaching to green, and at rare intervals in 
winter, as was the case this year, is relieved by patches 

Biver Kura — Cyrus — Russian Hospitality. 41 

of snow ; but with these exceptions they are sterile 
and arid-looking to a degree, and shutting in the 
town, as they do, in a basin, are anything but agree- 
able to the eye. They shelter the town, however, from 
the cold winds, and render the climate as mild as that 
of the Isle of Wight. 

Tiflis, I believe, takes its name from its warm 
springs, but I am ignorant of the language which 
gives the word that meaning. It is now the seat of 
government for the Caucasian Provinces of Kussia; 
head-quarters of an army of 150,000 men, employed in 
frontier duty, in surveillance of the tribes, and to a 
very great extent in making roads ; and the residence 
of the Governor- General, the Grand Duke Michael. 
His Imperial Highness, third brother of the reigning 
Emperor of Eussia, here holds his Court, and thus in 
this distant little capital there is to be found most 
agreeable society, and an unexpected quantity of social 

All travellers in Kussia have doubtless experienced 
and benefited from the w T ell-known hospitality of its in- 
habitants. In the remote out-of-the-way corners of the 
empire this national characteristic is carried almost to 
excess. The Court being in mourning for the Heredi- 
tary Grand Duke, lately deceased, there were no balls 
or dancing ; but society solaced itself with breakfast, 
dinner, and supper parties. Invitations to the latter 
showered upon me, so that during my visit of more 
than a fortnight I could only make use of my hotel, a 
rough-and-ready sort of place kept by Frenchman 

42 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

of course, as a dormitory. I was frequently honoured 
with invitations to the palace, and the exquisite urbanity 
and real cordiality of the reception given me by their 
Imperial Highnesses the Grand Duke and Grand 
Duchess, as well as the excessive kindness I experi- 
enced at the hands of all I came in contact with, have 
left a most charming and indelible souvenir in my 
mind. " Venez diner aujourd'hui ; " " Nous vous 
attendons demain a dejeuner; " " Mon cheval sera a 
votre porte cet apres-midi;" " Je vous verrai dans 
ma loge ce soir." Such were the phrases continually 
resounding in my ears, and in this way hospitality 
was rendered doubly acceptable — as it always is du 
reste amongst Kussians — by a complete absence of 
ceremony and formality. 

" Je vous verrai dans ma loge ce soir." Those 
habitues of Covent Garden and of the Grand Opera 
who have ever heard of Tiflis, will be surprised to 
learn that it possesses a theatre, where all the fashion- 
able operas are as well given as in any second-rate 
Western capital, and that the " Salle de Theatre," 
though comparatively small, is one of the prettiest in 
the world — what the French would term a " bijou ; " 
but a thoroughly Oriental one, for this essentially wes- 
tern institution is here completely eastern, even to the 
minutest details of its decoration. It is a hall such as 
one might expect to find described in the pages of the 
Arabian Nights, or portrayed, as an antechamber to the 
Palace of Eblis, by the author of Vathek. Arabesques, 
exquisite in their minute tracery and glowing colouring, 

Opera- House at Tiflis — Georgian Beauties. 43 

adorn the dome, the base of which almost imperceptibly 
blends itself in the elegant intricacies of the honey- 
combed architrave, harmoniously supported in turn on 
a double tier of horseshoe arches, which form the 
boxes. At first sight one's thoughts are carried far 
away to the halls of the Alhambra, and souvenirs of 
Moorish legends crowd on the mind, until, amidst the 
impatient stamping of the parterre and the tuning of 
orchestral instruments, the curtain rises and Gounod's 
Faust recalls us from our reveries. Below, in the body 
of the theatre, there is a good deal of the motley we 
noticed in the bazaar, but in the boxes we see some of 
the far-famed Georgian beauties, in the costume of 
their country as at present worn. It consists of a 
circular, flat velvet cap, in form like that of a German 
student, couleur a volonte, embroidered with gold lace 
and spangled with pearls, which covers the top of the 
head and part of the forehead. From it descends a 
short veil of white lace, thrown off the face and falling 
gracefully on the shoulders, whilst the jet black hair 
is worn in long tresses, two of which descend in front. 
A dress of Parisian cut, and a mantle heavily em- 
broidered or trimmed with rich fur, complete the 
costume. The features of the wearers are regular and 
handsome, rather than beautiful. Finely chiselled 
brows, large black liquid dreamy eyes, prominent 
semi-aquiline nose, and voluptuous mouth, are the 
general characteristics of this Georgian race, which 
would excel all others in beauty were it likewise gifted 
with expression. This very necessary item is seldom 

44 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

found, but where it does exist the face is perfect. I 
was fortunate enough to behold this perfection, but, 
alas ! my complete ignorance of the Kussian and 
Georgian languages was an insuperable bar to an 
intimate acquaintance with the owner. 

Before quitting the opera, one word of eulogy to 
the orchestra. The musicians are Russian subjects of 
German origin, descendants of a colony of Wtirtem- 
bergers who, driven from their native country, in I don't 
know which year of the last century, by religious persecu- 
tion, sought and found freedom of conscience amongst 
the Georgians. Preserving intact their taste for music, 
these children of the great Teutonic Fatherland form 
an orchestral body which, though inferior to those of 
the London, Paris, and Vienna operas, has not its 
equal in precision of execution, discipline and taste, in 
the whole extent of the land of song. Yes, of song : 
vocal, not instrumental music. Have any of the 
thousands who yearly pass a portion of the winter 
months in Italian cities ever had the good luck to 
hear a really good orchestra ? And if not, has any 
one of them been able to account for the fact that an 
Italian audience, so astonishingly quick in detecting 
the slightest error in singing, the variation of a 
fractional part of a note up or down the scale, not 
only tolerates inferior instrumental music, but is 
apparently indifferent to any amount of want of 
harmony and to any number of false notes in 
orchestral performances ? Discipline is one of the 
first requisites for an orchestra. Discipline cannot be 

Orchestra of Wiirtembergers — Sham Skirmish. 45 

maintained without perseverance ; perseverance, the 
passive form of which is so manifest in the lazzaroni, 
would seem to be wanting as an active principle in the 
minds of the Italian instrumental performers. It is to 
be hoped that this deficiency will not be forgotten in 
the regeneration of the now united kingdom, and that 
the success which has already crowned the efforts of the 
Bolognese to counteract it, will encourage other opera 
orchestras to follow in their steps. 

To return to our Wiirtembergers. They have not 
only preserved their national taste for music, but 
many other habits and customs of the Fatherland. 
Hiding through their quarter of the town, called the 
colony, the neat and solid houses, surrounded by their 
garden plots, looked to advantage as contrasted with 
the half-underground mud hovels of the Georgians and 
Orientals, and the somewhat flimsily-painted dwellings 
of the Kussians of the same class and standing. 

Near the colony is the parade-ground, where, through 
the kindness of the officer in command of the Grand- 
Ducal Cossack body-guard, I witnessed a truly novel 
equestrian exhibition. After being paraded, the men, 
about sixty in number, mounted on strong ugly little 
horses, were ordered to perform a sham skirmish. 
Forming themselves into two camps, each combatant 
attacked his opponent on his own hook and after his 
own fashion. Here was a fellow standing bolt upright 
in his saddle and discharging his musket at another, 
who, hanging pendent by his legs, returned fire from 
underneath his horse's belly : there a couple clinging 

46 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

like cats to the flanks and ribs of their chargers, and 
thus completely sheltering their own bodies, watched 
a favourable moment for pinking each other, though to 
me they almost appeared like a couple of riderless 
horses ; whilst others flattened themselves at full length 
on their beasts' backs and manoeuvred for the chance of 
some unguarded movement on the part of their foes. All 
this at full gallop, accompanied by a good deal of scream- 
ing and yelling. Other feats were then performed. 
Galloping with the head downwards in the saddle and 
the body and legs erect in the air seemed a favourite 
one ; still more so, picking up a stone or even a coin 
at the same pace, the performer holding on the while 
to his saddle by his feet. A couple of hours of this 
sort of work seemed to be enough for horse and man, 
so closing up into a column four deep, the Cossacks 
marched home singing in remarkably good time a 
native chorus with an accompaniment of two kettle- 

They are first-rate irregular cavalry, these Cossacks, 
strong well-built fellows, and active as cats. Their dress 
and accoutrements are similar in form, but each man 
is at liberty to choose the colour of his caftan, and of 
the sixty, mustered on this occasion, hardly two were 
alike : white and different shades of grey and maroon 
seemed the favourite colours. Instead of boots, they 
wear a species of buskin, of a very pliable leather, 
reaching to the knee, and in the place of soles, a pair 
of mocassins of the same material, fitting like a glove 
and leaving the foot in perfect freedom. 

Cossack Accoutrements — Indolence of the Georgians. 47 

The cathedral of Tiflis is worthy of a visit from 
those who have never seen a Greek church. There are 
pretty rides to the Botanical Gardens and amongst the 
neighbouring hills ; and to the district of Kahetie, 
famous in the Caucasus for its very palatable and 
wholesome wine. It is more powerful and warmer 
than Bordeaux, with somewhat less body than Burgundy, 
and is the best substitute for either of the French 
wines that I have tasted. Its good qualities are duly 
appreciated by the natives, whose greatest pleasure it is 
to set themselves down for a good steady long drink : 
indeed, it is only then that the Georgians give any sign 
of animation. In general they are lazy, indolent, 
apathetic, and ignorant, without ambition to rise in the 
world, and content to live on in their own sluggish 
way. The lower classes are principally cultivators of 
the soil, which they manipulate in the same old- 
fashioned jog-trot style as their ancestors for centuries 
before them. Amongst the higher, education is little 
heeded ; a Georgian seldom rises to the senior class in 
his school or college, and considers further study 
unnecessary when he can jabber French. Such being 
the case, and there being few Kussians in the country 
who are not either civil or military employes, all 
trade and commerce are in the hands of the Armenians, 
an active and enterprising race, whose views are so 
steadfastly and ceaselessly fixed on the main chance, 
that they have come to be designated as the " Jews of 
the East." 

Though some of the mountain tribes continue now 

48 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

and then to give trouble to the Russian Government, 
and though the latter is obliged to maintain a large 
force — 200,000 men, I have heard — in the Caucasus, 
still its various races of inhabitants seem pretty well 
reconciled to their present rulers ; to whom they 
certainly owe the little that has as yet been done for 
the advancement of civilization. That little may, as 
we have seen in speaking of the Poti-Tiflis and Baku 
Railway, at no distant day receive a vast extension, and 
not even the most ardent of Schamyl's romantic 
admirers will maintain that it could have been effected 
without the aid of Russia. Schamyl was a hero, no 
doubt, but then he was one of those heroes whose 
existence is incompatible with this progressive nine- 
teenth century. Left to themselves and to heroes of 
this species, the Caucasians would to this day have 
been found in a state of barbarism, continually warring 
with each other, and warring merely for plunder. 

Vastly preferable to such a state of things is Russian 
civilization, deficient though it may be in some respects. 
A police force is an acknowledged necessity of our 
times, and, just as amongst communities of men, there 
are criminals and malefactors whose attacks and 
outrages on their fellows are no longer compatible with 
social order as at present understood and practised, so 
likewise amongst communities of states there are 
unruly and worthless members whose existence can no 
longer be tolerated by the prevalent ideas of the 
century. Incapable of themselves of emerging from 
barbarism, they must either be swept from the face of 

Bussia in the Caucasus and Central Asia. 49 

the earth or submit to the guidance and domination of 
some other member of the community which has had 
the wisdom or the good luck to conform itself to those 
ideas. Russia having adopted them, was thus impelled 
not only by her geographical position, but also by the 
feeling of the age in which we live, to step in and keep 
the peace in the Caucasus, just as she is now by the 
same motives urged on to enforce the first rules of 
order and civilization on the recalcitrant khans of 
Central Asia. An Englishman, in the ardour of his 
patriotism, may regret and deprecate her approach to 
our Indian frontier ; a cosmopolitan must rejoice that, 
whatever its intents, that approach will eventually 
replace barbarism by civilization. 

But we must back to Tiflis, where the Russian 
new year, the 12th of January, is celebrated with an 
excess of hospitality which makes one almost forget 
the extraordinary severity of the winter. A good deal 
of snow has been falling, and the frost is so severe 
that I skate on the Kura, to the great stupor of many 
of the inhabitants, who have never seen skates in their 
lives. The last clays of my stay are occupied with 
preparations for my drive of 400 versts to the Persian 
frontier. The postal authorities furnish me with a 
vehicle, a sort of char-a-bancs, supplied with the luxury 
of springs, covered in on three sides with leather 
curtains, and capable ~of containing myself and my 
baggage, and with a conducteur who can understand 
and speak a few phrases of German. A padarojna for 
four horses, and more in case of need, is procured for 


50 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

me, and I invest in huge felt boots and a portable bed 
weighing some ten pounds. Commissariat supplies, in 
the shape of tongues, chickens, preserved meats, bread, 
butter, wine, brandy, tea, and sugar — everything, 
indeed, that a man may want for four or five days — are 
laid in, and, on the morning of the 15th January, after 
wishing all my Tiflis friends good-by, and seeing my 
traps secured by ropes in the front part of my char-a- 
bancs, I take my seat beside them near the door, and 
we move slowly and regretfully through the roughly- 
paved streets and out of the town. 

( 51 ) 


The Plain of the Kura and Valley of the Akstaf — Snow- 
Pass of Dilijan — Lake of G-outche — Legend about its 
Teout — Erivan. 

Once out of the hills which surround Tiflis, we get 
down on to the river bank, and the road being flat, 
keep up the ventre-a-terre pace during most of the 
day, and at eight in the evening come to a halt 
at a pretty good post-house called Nawo Akstaf. It 
is a monotonous and melancholy drive of 107 versts 
over a vast plain, traversed by the Kura and bounded 
by arid brown hills running parallel therewith ; 
there is an utter want of vegetation, except when, at 
rare intervals, a belt of scraggy poplars, or a plot of 
scrubby brushwood, denote the existence of a stream, 
and an equally sparse exhibition of animal life in the 
shape of a string or two of camels, a herd or two of 
sheep and goats, and a native or two " pricking o'er 
the plain." At each post-house there are apparently a 
few inhabitants, and now and then we pass a Tartar 
village, composed of reed and mud-built hovels, like 
molehills, and guarded by a troop of huge white 

52 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia, 

mastiffs, or a Mahometan cemetery, a mere jumble 
of broken headstones, sticking up in the desert plain, 
and unprotected by wall or mound, intensely expressive 
of the surrounding desolation. 

After twelve hours of this sort of scenery, and of 
rattling and shaking, the bare walls of the post-room 
and the wooden tressel have a cheery look, and one 
almost goes into ecstasies at the sight of the smoking 
samovar. The conducteur whips bed, bedding, and 
provisions out of the carriage, and in half an hour hot 
tea and supper are forthcoming. 

By the display of much energy my conducteur 
contrived to have his team ready before daybreak next 
morning, and as the sun rose we were leaving the 
plain of the Kura and entering the hills on its south- 
eastern side by the valley of the Akstaf ; catching a 
last view, at the same time, of the great Caucasian 
chain, ruby red in the clear morning air. The rough 
and stony road rises rapidly along the banks of the 
stream, an affluent of the Kura, amidst hills at first 
arid and barren, but as we get higher up, covered 
with scrubby brushwood, which, on nearing our third 
station, Euruslam, becomes worthy of the name of 

Hitherto there had been no difficulty in procuring 
horses, and beyond the unnecessarily long delays 
travellers always meet with in these post-houses, 
nothing had interrupted our onward progress. But 
before descending from my perch at Euruslam, I spied 
with misgivings a telega at the post-house door, and five 

A Desolate Drive — Detention — Grand Scenery. 53 

minutes later, after a long altercation with the master, 
my conducteur announced that an officer, on his way 
to Tiflis, had just ordered the only four fresh horses 
in the stable, and that none of the others would be 
fit to start till next morning. It being then only 
noon, the prospect of passing the rest of the day and 
night in this solitary post-house was not cheerful. 
No help for it, however, for the master, perceiving 
from our looks and language that we were anything 
but resigned to our fate, shut himself up in his own 
part of the premises, and refused to have further 
communication with us. Luckily the station, appa- 
rently the only building in the neighbourhood, was 
beautifully situated. Bold, abrupt hills of the most 
varied forms, sprinkled with hardwood and juniper, 
and lofty rocks exhibiting the most fantastic formation 
in their horizontal, perpendicular, and curved strata, 
rise around it on all sides, and give the scene an air 
of wild grandeur, enhanced, at that moment, by a lot 
of vultures careering about their summits. So a 
solitary scramble in the hills with my gun on my 
shoulder, and a vain attempt to get a shot at the 
vultures, occupied, tant bien que mal, the vacant 
hours till, towards sunset, snow drove me back to the 

Since leaving Tiflis the weather had been milder, 
and the snow had almost disappeared in the valleys of 
the Kura and Akstaf; now it again began to fall, 
bringing in its train a host of troubles and difficulties 
to the traveller. 

54 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

What a charming variety is a fall of snow in Old 
England ! How pretty the white mantle looks, 
sparkling and glittering in the sun, as on some bright 
Christmas morning you survey it from your cosy 
breakfast-table ! How pleasing to your ears the 
crackling of its frozen particles under your boot ! 
How exhilarating to your spirits the sharp frost that 
generally accompanies it ! Those who have only this 
agreeable acquaintance with it cannot realize the 
inveterate hatred with which the traveller regards 
snow, his greatest torment. Give me mud, dust, wind, 
rain, and heat, but preserve me from snow. 

From the Bosphorus to Poti, wherever land 
appeared, it was white, but there was always relief for 
the eyes in looking at the sea ; from Poti to Tifiis it 
was white without relief ; thence to Euruslam there was 
brown relief and no white ; but from Euruslam to the 
gates of Tehran a great white pall covered the earth. 
Far as the eye could reach, o'er mountain, plain, and 
valley, spread one vast sheet of snow, bewildering from 
its vastness, painfully blinding in the sunshine from its 
intolerable glare, sickening, without it, from its lifeless 
monotony. Apart from the cold and the obstacles it 
opposes to progress, the moral depression produced in 
the mind of the traveller, journeying for days and 
weeks over some 2,000 miles of snow, by the deadly 
monotony of the sight of this earth-covering winding- 
sheet and his feeling of inability to escape from its 
huge and dreary folds, is not what a Samaritan would 
wish his best friend to experience. 

Depressing Effect of Snow — Awkward Obstacle. 55 

A slight foretaste of my snowy difficulties awaited 
me soon after starting early next morning, for we had 
hardly proceeded a couple of versts when my team of 
six horses (two additional on account of the snow) with 
one consent jibbed on a steep hill. My yamtchik and 
two chapars used their usual arguments, but in vain ; 
the horses, with their absurd Asiatic shoes, slipped and 
floundered, and eventually fell in a heap. I sent the 
chapars back to the post-house for more horses. 
These likewise proved useless. Here was an occasion 
for the display of Tapleyan virtue : a possibility of 
remaining on the slope till the snow melted ; for if 
ten horses can't drag a carnage up hill, what 
will ? 

After brooding over the prospect for an hour or so, 
we spied a Tartar's waggon coming down towards us, 
and there being no room for him to pass without first 
moving our vehicle, for there was a precipice on one 
side of the narrow road and a wall of rock on the 
other, he likewise came to a standstill. To our 
infinite satisfaction we found that his three horses 
were shod in European fashion, and after some parley 
as to the price of their services, they were yoked to my 
vehicle and delivered us from our difficulty. 

Though incidents of this nature threatened to 
recur at any moment, no extraordinary delay was 
experienced until reaching the village and post-house 
of Dilijan, at the foot of the pass of that name. This 
pass is between 5,000 and 6,000 feet above the sea- 
level, and divides Georgia from the mountainous district 

56 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

of Karadagh. Here fresh horses were refused, but 
after passing one afternoon and night at Euruslam, I 
was determined to employ every means to avoid passing 
another at Dilijan ; where, to judge from the aspect of 
the place, my sole amusement would have been a walk 
in a foot and a half depth of snow. So summoning the 
conducteur and the post-master, I caused the latter to 
be informed with much solemnity that I was an intimate 
friend of the Governor- General, and that unless horses 
were at once forthcoming, I should write, nay telegraph 
at once to his Imperial Highness and await the 

This unsparing use of the Grand Ducal-name, 
accompanied by considerable vehemence of manner 
and gesture, had the desired effect ; the fellow bowed, 
protested that he had been misunderstood, that the 
horses were ready, and disappeared at once to see them 
harnessed. The steepness and length of the ascent 
necessitated eight, and it was only after toiling and 
struggling for near three hours through snow, sleet, 
and mist that we at last reached the summit of the 
pass, and commenced rattling down its southern slope 
to the great Goutche Lake. 

This vast expanse of water, sixty or seventy miles 
long and about thirty broad, I was told, is situated 
5,000 feet above the level of the sea, and surrounded 
by an amphitheatre of barren hills. In the best of 
seasons its scenery must be wild and melancholy, but 
at the moment at which I first saw it, both these 
features were enhanced by the state of the atmo- 

Pass of Dilijan — Great Goutche Lake. 57 

sphere. The hills were covered with snow and partially 
hidden by whitish masses of mist and vapour, making 
the tranquil waters of the lake appear, by contrast and 
in the dim twilight, of a deadly leaden hue ; whilst, 
poised and stationary above, a huge canopy of inky 
black cloud hung over the whole, so heavy-looking in 
its blackness that I expected each moment it would 
descend and envelop all in its sable folds. Getting 
down to the shore of the lake we found the post-house 
so comfortless that, notwithstanding all the stories I 
had heard of accidents which had occurred on the next 
stage from snowdrifts and brigands, I determined to go 
on. All my Tiflis friends, who had traversed this 
route, had informed me that this was the most dan- 
gerous stage of my journey ; that as it was the wildest 
and most remote from cities and the fixed habitations 
of men, so it was the most unsafe ; that I must mind 
and take an escort, and that carriages and even heavy 
waggons had been swept bodily off the road into the 
lake by the fierce winds which sometimes prevail on 
its shores. Almost their last words to me, indeed, 
had been, "Don't pass the Goutche at night. " All 
this, and many stories to the same intent, recurred to 
my mind ; and my first view of the lake was not one of 
a nature to dispel the disagreeable impression they had 
produced on my imagination. But anything seemed 
preferable to passing the night in a half-frozen state 
in the solitary post-house of Tchibukli, and I deter- 
mined to start, in spite of the opposition of both driver 
and escort ; who, on learning my irrevocable decision, 

58 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

became so anxious to break the back of the stage 
before actual darkness should set in, that I here wit- 
nessed for the first and last time the almost impossible 
feat of changing horses in ten minutes. 

After half-an-hour's gallop over level ground, we 
ascended to a high bluff, rising some seventy or eighty 
feet perpendicularly from the lake, and forming its 
south-western boundary. The road ran along its 
extreme edge, and was narrowed to the merest 
necessities of a carriage-way by the rising ground on 
the land side. Much snow had fallen in the morning; 
it had drifted in many places to a depth of two or three 
feet, and, not being yet frozen, it effectually concealed, 
without counteracting their natural effects, ruts, holes, 
and loose stones. Here and there, at the most 
dangerous spots, a frail post or two with a transverse 
had been stuck up, more for form's sake than any- 
thing else. My journey from Tiflis had not been 
wanting in opportunities for accustoming myself to 
precipices and reckless driving, but I confess that my 
experience of them was insufficient to give me fitting 
calmness on this occasion. My driver had evidently 
le diable au corps, and went dashing along the zigzag 
edge of the bluff with seemingly as much sangfroid as 
if he had been taking his team ventre- a-terre across a 
bowling-green, whilst the two Tartars of my escort, 
one before and the other behind the carriage, appeared, 
perhaps from the ill repute of the stage, more than 
usually intent on performing it in the shortest time 
possible. Sitting down with my back to the precipice 

A Perilous Drive through the Snow. 59 

and rny eyes steadily fixed on my baggage, I remained 
for some ten minutes revolving in my mind the proba- 
bilities of our being shot bodily into the lake. But in 
turning a sharp corner, and passing within a foot of 
the edge of the precipice, I involuntarily caught sight 
of the black waters far below us, whilst at the same 
moment a stone or a rut seemed to send us completely 
out of our centre of gravity and at once to turn the 
scale of chances lakewards. My nerves could stand this 
no longer ; so, opening the carriage door, I descended 
to the footboard and there stood, ready to jump off at 
any moment in case of an upset, and fully expecting 
to see carriage and horses flying over the precipice, and 
myself sprawling in the snow on its brink. My Tartar 
seemed somewhat puzzled at this change of position, 
but I fancy soon attributed it to its real motive, for if 
I mistake not, a grim, and, perhaps, contemptuous 
smile, came over his features as, galloping along in the 
snow and darkening twilight behind me, he gesticulated 
that there was no danger. Happily, there was no 
wind; our chances of perdition seemed to me sufficiently 
numerous without it, and, notwithstanding the well- 
meant assurances of the Tartar, I can only ascribe our 
escaping all mishaps to luck or a miracle. This 
dangerous bit of road is of considerable length, as we 
were near half-an-hour in traversing it; in two hours 
more, and when night had set in, we reached Yelenawka, 
and entered a post-house, in which an English master 
of hounds would feel scruples of conscience in kennelling 
his pack. 

60 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

Yeleuawka, a miserable village, is, as I perceived 
next morning, situated on the lake. The bay on 
which it stands was unfortunately frozen, and I was 
thus unable to taste the delicious trout with which it is 
said to abound, and which had been strongly recommended 
by the epicures of Tiflis. Their delicacy was probably 
known to our friend above quoted, Marco Polo, who 
visited the lake in 1273-4, and who, as will be seen 
by the following extract, attributes to them a peculiarity 
which it is to be hoped they do not retain at the present 

" Quivi si e lo Monastero di Santo Lionardo, ov' e 
tale maraviglia, che d' una montagna viene un lago 
dinanzi a questo monastero, e non mena niuno pesce 
di niuno tempo, se non di Quaresima, e comincia lo 
primo di di Quaresima, e dura insino al Sabato Santo, 
e viene in grande abbondanza. Dal di innanzi 
non vi se ne vede ne trova veruno per maraviglia 
infino all' altra Quaresima. E sappiate che il mare, 
che io v' ho contato, si chiama lo mare di Gelu- 
chelari." * 

The legend, no doubt, came from the monastery 
which I had noticed the evening before on a small 

* "There stands the Monastery of St. Leonard, a place so wondrous 
that before it, surrounded by mountains, is a lake which contains no 
fish except during the season of Lent. The fish come in great 
abundance on the first day of Lent and remain until holy Saturday. 
Previously not one is to be seen, and afterwards there is not one to 
be found until the following Lent. This lake is called, as I have 
stated, the Lake of Geluchelari." 

Yelenaicka — Lenten Trout — Erivan. 61 

island about a mile from the shore. Had not its 
inmates had a surfeit of fish during Lent, and did they 
not invent this story as a pretext for indulging in more 
succulent food during the rest of the year ? 

Having with difficulty procured some water from 
the frozen lake for my modest ablutions and swallowed 
some hot tea, I left the village soon after dawn, amidst 
snow and clouds : a small group of natives huddled in 
sheepskin mantles looked shiveringly at my departure. 
The descent to Erivan possesses none of the fine 
scenery of the Dilijan side of the pass. The road, the 
stoniest I ever drove over, runs down a series of bleak 
bare hills and arid slopes, but it is said, in clear 
weather, to afford the traveller magnificent views of the 
monarch mountain of these parts — Ararat. The state 
of the atmosphere deprived me of this " distraction," 
nor did anything occur to enliven my forty-five miles' 
drive; for villages there were none and no human 
beings were visible, except at the post-houses where 
we changed horses, until we got down into the plain 
and the streets of Erivan. 

We drove up to what is pretentiously described as 
an hotel, but it seemed to me so comfortless and dirty 
that a glance indoors induced me to prefer taking up 
my quarters at the stanzia (post-house). There was 
just time before dark for a wade through the streets of 
the town. It contains some 15,000 souls, I believe, 
principally Armenians, and, since it became Russian in 
1828, has been Russianized to the extent of having its 
streets made as wide as boulevards, and some of its 

62 Journeij through the Caucasus and Persia. 

houses painted green. Otherwise it is Asiatic. Its 
principal building is a fort, of Persian origin, situated 
on a stream called the Zengui, an affluent of the 
Araxes. Having a letter of introduction to the governor 
of the province of which Erivan is the capital, I went 
to pay my respects and to enjoy the luxury of con- 
versing for a few minutes in a known language, after 
three days' almost total silence ; for my conducteur's 
knowledge of German was of the slightest, and mine 
of Kussian almost nil. 

The governor, a military man of course and a 
perfect master of French, received me most hospitably 
with glasses of hot tea and cigarettes. Happening to 
mention, in the course of conversation, that the Grand 
Duke, in talking of the dangers of the road, had told 
me that the only instance of highway robbery of late 
had taken place near Erivan, his excellency seemed to 
become rather nervous. " What ! " he seemed to be 
thinking, " has the Grand Duke heard of this little 
affair ? And why does this fellow mention it to me ? 
Am I going to get a rap over the knuckles ?" He 
soon, however, resumed his calmness, talked of the 
flourishing state of his province, of the roads he was 
constructing, of his hopes of some day seeing a railway 
from Erivan to the Persian frontier, &c, and I was just 
beginning to hope that he had forgotten my indiscreet 
mention of the robbery, when he again reverted to it. 
He said it was a trifling affair : some clothes and a 
little money had been extorted from a traveller ; it was 
nothing ; an escapade : there were no brigands, and no 

Intervieiv ivith the Governor of Erivan. 63 

danger ; and then added, to my surprise, as I rose to 
depart, — " You must take an escort with you to the 
frontier, and I will send you some Cossacks to 
accompany you on your intended excursion to-morrow 
to Etchmiadzin." 

64 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 


Armenia and Armenians — St. Gregory the Illuminator — 
Etchmiadzin — Traditions relative to the Ark's Resting- 
place — Mount Ararat — Nakhitshevan — Julfa — The 

In the immediate vicinity of Erivan lay the original 
kernel of one of the oldest nations in the world and 
the capital of one of its most ancient kingdoms. 
Armenia in the days of its power extended from the 
Caucasus to the Kurdish Taurus, and from the Halys 
to the Lake of Ooroomiah. " Amidst the natural fast- 
nesses of this district," says a modern writer, " in a 
country of lofty ridges, deep and narrow valleys, 
numerous and copious streams, and occasional broad 
plains — a country of rich pasture grounds, productive 
orchards, and abundant harvests — this (Armenian) 
interesting people has maintained itself almost un- 
changed from the time of the early Persian kings to 
the present day." * 

As to their origin and the name of their country, 
I cannot do better than quote an extract from some 

* Rawlinson's Ancient Monarchies, 

Origin of the Armenians. 65 

Kussian State-papers which have lately been translated 
into English : * 

" Armenians themselves, relying on traditions still 
preserved among them, trace their origin up to Haik, 
a grandson of Japhet, who lived at the time of the 
Tower of Babel, and who, after the confusion of 
tongues and the consequent dispersion of peoples, left 
the plains of Shinar for the foot of Ararat. There he 
established himself and his family, the parent stock of 
the people that called themselves Haikans, after him 
their ancestor, and gave the name of Haizdan, or 
Haikstan (retained by Armenians to the present day), 
to the land in which they first settled. The sixth 
descendant in straight line from Haik, by name Aram, 
a contemporary and ally of the great Assyrian Ninus, 
distinguished himself in so many ways, but especially 
by conquests and victories, that ever since the sur- 
rounding nations called all Haikans, Armenians, and 
their land, the land of Haik, Armenia." 

The descendants of Haik seem to have governed 
their country until the time of Alexander the Great, 
the last of them having died fighting against the 
Macedonian, as the ally of Darius Codomannus (b.c. 
328). From that time Armenia has had its full share 
of vicissitudes, and been successively the prey of 
Greeks, Romans, Parthians, and Persians. To avoid 
the horrors of the Mahomedan invasion, it threw itself 
into the hands of the Byzantine emperors, and for 

* The Life and Times of St, Gregory the Illuminator. Malan. 

66 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

four centuries the land was disputed by the latter and 
the Caliphs, who in turn nominated as its governors the 
heads of its greatest and. most ancient native families. 
Such were the Bagratidao, one of whom attained to so 
much influence and power that he forced the Caliph 
of the day to grant him the title of king (a.d. 885). 
Internal dissensions and the invasion of the Seljuck 
Turks put an end to the Bagration dynasty, and its last 
remaining scion became King of Georgia. Georgians, 
Turks, Persians, and Kussians have since in turn had 
partial possession of the country, until in 1828 its 
present subdivision was completed. 

These events fully explain how it has come to pass 
that Armenians are to be found in so many different 
and distant regions of Europe and Asia, and that they 
almost monopolize the trade of the East. Intestine 
wars and foreign invasions drove them from their 
native land, and commerce thus became the natural 
occupation of those who no longer had land to culti- 
vate, nor a country they could call their own. It 
is hardly necessary to mention the parallel between 
Armenians and Jews in these two respects ; but there 
is a third which equally characterizes them both. 
Religious belief is the bond which has ever united 
and still unites the scattered members of both nations, 
and has preserved to them intact the type and 
characteristics of their remote ancestors. 

As we are bound to Etchmiadzin, the seat of the 
primate of the Armenian Church, a few words on its 
founder and doctrine may not be without interest. 

Founder of the Armenian Church. 67 

According to Armenian * traditions, their country, 
the first to receive the knowledge of the true God in 
the days of Noah, was also the first to hear the glad 
tidings of the Gospel ; one of their kings, Abgarus, 
having been in epistolary intercourse with our Saviour, 
and having received from Him his portrait not painted 
by human hands. Two of the apostles, Thaddeus and 
Bartholomew, each bringing with him a wonder- 
working relic — the former the spear which pierced 
our Saviour's side, and the latter a painting of the 
Virgin by St. Luke — are said to have there preached 
the new faith and suffered martyrdom for it. But 
the results of their labours seem to have been lost in 
the mixture of Persian fire-worship and Greek idolatry, 
which then formed the religion of the surrounding 
people, and it was reserved to St. Gregory to sow the 
first permanent seeds of Christianity, and thus become, 
under the title of the " Illuminator," the founder and 
patron of the National Church. 

The hand of Providence is clearly manifest to 
Armenians in the circumstances attending the birth 
of their patron saint. Anak, his father, a Parthian 
nobleman, had, on condition of receiving the sove- 
reignty of Balkh, offered to Ardashir, king of Persia, 
to murder Chosroes, king of Armenia ; on his journey 
to accomplish this object he was accompanied by his 
wife, who gave birth to Gregory (a.d. 258) at the 
very spot where Thaddeus had suffered martyrdom. 
Two years later Anak killed Chosroes while out hunt- 

* The Life and Times of St. Gregory the Illuminator. Malan. 

68 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

ing, and fled for his life. His family were all put to 
death, except Gregory, who was saved by a certain 
Sophia, the Christian wife of a Persian then tarrying 
in the city of Yalarshabad, the capital of Armenia, and 
was by her carried to her home, Csesarea of Cappa- 
docia. There he was educated in the precepts of 
Christianity, and grew up to man's estate, perfect in 
bodily form and abounding in spiritual graces and 
mental gifts. Nor did Sophia's care stop here. She 
provided him with a well-born and virtuous wife, who 
bore him two sons, both superlatively precocious, it 
would seem; for, in the words of tradition, " while as 
yet their tongues only stammered in children's talk, 
they already made mention of the most Holy Trinity 
and of the unity of the Godhead." But domestic 
happiness and a life passed in the practice of good 
works were insufficient to smother in Gregory's breast 
the innate yearning of his heart, the early-conceived 
object of his life — viz. to atone for his father's crime 
by opening the gates of eternal life, through Christ's 
Gospel, to the son of him who had been thrust out of 
the portals of this world by that father's murderous 
hand. So after bestowing his worldly substance on 
his children, and placing his wife, at her own desire, 
in a convent, Gregory departed and became the slave 
of Tiridates, who had succeeded his father Chosroes 
on the throne of Armenia. 

Gregory's intelligence and fidelity soon gained for 
him that monarch's esteem and affection. He rose 
so high in favour that his master at last entrusted to 

St. Gregory the Illuminator. 69 

him, as the most worthy of his subjects, the duty of 
bearing to Anahid, the protecting goddess of the 
country, the thank-offerings which he wished to present 
for the numerous victories he had gained over his 
enemies. Then first did the saint declare his mission. 
Refusing to bow to images of wood and stone, he 
boldly anathematized the idolatry of the Armenians, 
and proclaimed himself the apostle of Christ. At this 
the king was wroth, and commanded that Gregory 
should be put to the torture, and on his persisting in 
his refusal to recant, that he should be cast into a 
noisome black pit full of vipers and other reptiles. 

About this period there arrived in Armenia two 
saints, Guiane and Rhipsime by name. They had 
been obliged to leave the convent near Rome, where 
they had taken vows of chastity, and to flee to the 
East in order to escape the addresses of the Emperor 
Diocletian ; who, being anxious to take to himself a 
wife, had sent commissioners all over the empire to 
seek out the handsomest woman amongst his subjects. 
The commissioners gave the palm to Rhipsime, who 
received notification of the emperor's gracious inten- 
tions. Flight or acceptance of the imperial favour 
were the only courses open to the lady. She unhesi- 
tatingly chose the former, and attended by her foster- 
mother, Guiane, and several of her companions, she 
departed for the East, and, after long wanderings, by the 
express commands of the Blessed Virgin, finally fixed her 
residence, and built herself a convent, at Valarshabad. 

" The pangs of despised love " struck deep into 

70 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

the heart of Diocletian, and, in the hope of recovering 
his lost treasure, he sent letters patent to all his 
sovereign allies, requesting them to aid him in his 
search after the beautiful Khipsime. Tiridates' high 
appreciation of female beauty seems to have been 
known to Diocletian, for the emperor, in his letter 
to his Armenian friend, recommends him, in case he 
should find the lady and take pleasure in her charms, 
to keep her for himself. 

Tiridates was not long in discovering the retreat 
of Khipsime, and, at once smitten by her beauty, 
employed fair means and foul to obtain possession of 
her. His efforts were, however, all in vain. Khipsime 
not only resisted all his persuasive arts, but foiled and 
vanquished him in a bodily struggle. 

The king's heart, left thus desolate, 
Flew at last for ease — to hate. 

He signed the death-warrant, and Khipsime and her 
companions suffered martyrdom. Heaven speedily 
avenged their deaths. Tiridates was transformed into 
a wild boar, and, like a still greater monarch, " ate 
grass as the oxen, and his body was wet with the dew 
of heaven," whilst all those who had taken part in 
his crime were driven mad and took to gnawing their 
own bodies. In this emergency the king's sister, of 
whom Moses of Chorene writes that she was " modest 
and well-behaved, like one of the virgins of old, and 
that she did not, like other women, let loose her 
tongue," — was warned in a vision to seek out the now 

Martyrdom of Saint Rhlpsime. 71 

almost-forgotten Gregory. He was drawn up out of 
the noisome pit, where he had been miraculously pre- 
served during fourteen long years, and, being entreated 
by the people, he prayed for the king and his courtiers, 
and they recovered their human forms and their 

The king's conversion to Christianity followed of 
course at once, and with the king, the whole Armenian 
nation adopted the new faith. Gregory spent a long- 
life in preaching and teaching and baptizing. His 
first act, after his consecration as Patriarch of Armenia 
by the Bishop of Csesarea, about a.d. 302, was to 
build a church in honour of Saint Rhipsime and her 
companions, and he called the church " Etchmiadzm 
— the descent of the Only-Begotten — in consequence 
of a divine vision he had, in which the Only-Begotten 
Son, descending from heaven to earth, marked the 
spot by smiting it with his hammer of gold, which 
resounded into the very depths of hell." 

St. Gregory, in founding the Church of Armenia, 
adopted all the liturgies and ceremonies of the Eastern 
Church ; and complete union would appear to have 
existed between the two until the Fourth (Ecumenical 
Council, that of Chalcedon, in a.d. 451. Internal 
disorders and calamities prevented the Armenian 
Church from taking part in this Council, and a report 
was propagated and believed in Armenia, to the effect 
that the Council had deviated from the dogmas of the 
Universal Church by recognizing in our Saviour the 
existence of Two Persons. This report, artfully spread 

72 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

by the followers of Eutyches, received confirmation by 
an accidental mistake in the Armenian translation of 
Pope Leon I.'s letter concerning the results of the 
Council. In writing of our Saviour's two natures, 
the one divine, the other subject to human suffering, 
the words "the one and the other" were rendered by 
an expression which in Armenian is applicable only to 
persons and not to things ; so that, whereas Pope Leon 
really spoke of two natures, he was understood by the 
Armenians to mean two persons. 

On this supposition the then Armenian Patriarch 
called together a National Council, which, persuaded 
of the heterodoxy of the proceedings of the Council 
of Chalcedon, rejected its authority and annulled its 
decisions. The misunderstanding was afterwards 
explained, but National antipathy and political 
differences prevented any healing of the rupture, and 
the bond of union once broken could never be 

The dogmatic difference between the Greek and 
Armenian churches turns upon the explanation of 
our Saviour's nature, a point much too abstruse for the 
pen of a traveller. The supreme head of the latter 
Church is styled Catholicos and resides at Etchmiadzin. 
He is elected, subject to confirmation by the Emperor 
of Russia, by the votes of the Armenian bishops of all 
lands there assembled in conclave, and alone possesses 
the right of episcopal consecration and of blessing the 
holy oil. There are Armenian communities and 
churches scattered over Persia, Turkey, and India. In 

The Armenian and Greek Churches. 73 

1842, the Armenian population of Kussia amounted to 
500,000 souls, and they had 955 churches within the 
limits of the empire. 

But we must be off to Etchmiadzin ; for after a 
delay as long as this digression, the governor's escort 
has arrived, in the shape of four Cossacks of the Don 
mounted on sturdy ugly ponies and armed with 
carbines and long wooden lances. An open country 
car, half filled w T ith straw, conveyed myself and 
conducteur, and once out of the town, my Cossacks 
left me, and were replaced by two mounted Tatars, who 
at once commenced showing their appreciation of my 
importance by performing their usual eccentric and 
picturesque antics on the snow-covered plain, hanging 
with their feet from their saddles, whilst their lips 
almost licked the snow, firing blank cartridge at 
imaginary enemies from under their horses' bellies, &c. 
An hour and a half's drive through fog and sleet 
brought us to our destination. 

Though originally only applied to the church 
founded by St. Gregory in commemoration of his 
vision, the term Etchmiadzin now comprehends two 
other churches, dedicated respectively to Saints Guiane 
and Ehipsime. Hence the Turkish name of the place, 
"tftch Kilise," or the Three Churches. The 
principal edifice stands in the centre of an open oblong 
space enclosed on all sides by a high wall, on the 
inside of w T hich the conventual buildings, the residence 
of the Catholicos, &c, abut. It dates from about the 
middle of the fifteenth century, when after an absence of 

74 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

more than 1,000 years, the Armenian Patriarch was at 
length allowed to return to the head- quarters of his 
religion. The church is in the form of an equi- 
brachiated cross, each arm terminating in a Byzantine 
portico of bright red stone adorned with Arabesque 
carving ; and it is crowned by a lofty octagonal dome, 
on each facade of which is represented in brilliantly 
coloured and glazed tiles, on a white and green ground, 
the colossal head of a saint. Outside stand a few tombs, 
and amongst them I noticed one of an English envoy 
to Persia, Sir I. Macdonald. The whole of the interior 
is covered with frescoes of Biblical subjects and miracles, 
and with scroll and Arabesque work of elaborate delicacy. 
These decorations have been added within the last 
200 years, and are probably the result of contact with 
Russia and the Greek rite, as Chardin states that, 
when he visited the church in 1671, it contained 
neither sculptured nor painted ornamentation. I was 
shown the mitre, robes, and crozier«of the Patriarch, 
studded with pearls, rubies, emeralds, &c. &c. ; also a 
New Testament 700 years old, and some beautifully 
illuminated Bibles of the fifteenth century. But I quite 
forgot to ask to look at the sacred relics said to be 
here preserved ; the most revered of which are the 
spear-head of Calvary, the arm of St. Gregory, and the 
skull of St. Rhipsime. 

A monk with long flowing beard, clad in ample black 
folds, and wearing a high peaked cowl, then conducted 
me over the Patriarch's residence, which is remarkable 
only for its simplicity, and an extensive library ; the 

Church and Convent of Etchmiadzin — Ararat. 75 

convent similar to other buildings of the sort ; 
the college, where there are always above 100 young 
men studying for the church, and where most of the 
Armenian religious books are written and printed ; and 
he landed me finally in the great refectory, in which 
about 200 monks, priests, and seminarists, seemed to 
be making a hearty midday meal off boiled beef and a 
pilau of grits. I did not find either of these dishes 
very good, but cannot speak too highly of the convent 
wine, very much resembling Sauterne, which stood 
in great abundance on the long tables, and seemed to 
be as much relished by my hosts as by myself. 

Etchmiadzin is not many miles from the foot of 
Ararat, and an Archbishop, who did the honours, 
was so flattered by the expression of my regret that 
the mountain was still hidden from view by the clouds, 
and of my fear that I might possibly miss seeing what 
had been an object of interest to me from my child- 
hood upwards, that he begged me to stay with him till 
the weather should clear. 'He and all his countrymen 
are very proud of their mountain, upon which 
many of them believe remnants of the Ark are still 
extant : of course they scout as heresy the tradition 
according to which that vessel first came to an 
anchor on Mount Judi, a peak of the Cardu Chain, to 
the north of the Mesopotamian plains of Shinar. The 
grounds on which this tradition rests are, however, at 
least plausible. 

The history of the Ark, as contained in the Syriac 
version of the Old Testament, in the Targums and 

76 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

Koran, is, I am told, in accordance with this tradition : 
Josephus and many ancient writers adopted it : Asse- 
manni mentions a convent bearing the name of Ark, 
as having existed near the foot of Mount Judi in the 
third century : Marco Polo, in describing Armenia, 
says : " Ancora vi dico che in questa grande Ermenia 
e l'Arca di Noe, in su una grande montagna negli confini 
di mezzodi inverso lo levante, presso al reame che si 
chiama Mosul : " * and finally Arabs, Turks, Kurds, 
Jews, and most Eastern Christians, believe in it. Nor 
is it in contradiction with our Book of Genesis. It is 
there stated that " the Ark rested on the Mountains of 
Ararat." But this word Ararat is used indiscriminately 
with Armenia to denote a country — not a mountain ; 
and the country so denoted included the Cardu 
Kange. A further argument in its favour may be 
drawn from the fact that in the region around Mount 
Ararat the climate is now too rigorous for the olive- 
tree, and there is no reason to believe that it was 
milder in former days. 

If, then, this tradition be the correct one, the two 
cradles of mankind were in close proximity, almost in 
sight of each other, and I confess that the version of the 
story which thus places them in juxtaposition has a 
charm for the imagination. Having, however, always 
associated the Ark with Ararat, and having heard much 
of the symmetrical proportions of the latter, it was with 

* " I must also tell you that in this Great Armenia there is the 
Ark of Noah ; it is on the top of a high mountain, near the south- 
eastern frontier and the country called Mosul." 

Resting-place of the Ark — Crossing Frozen Streams. 77 

feelings of disappointment at not having seen it, that I 
declined the Archbishop's invitation, and mounted my 
car to return to Erivan. 

Having nothing further to see in that town, I at 
once set off again on my way to the Persian frontier. 
Fifty versts over a level plain, evidently well irrigated 
from the number of frozen runners we passed, were 
accomplished before evening set in. The mist still hung 
about and impeded all view. If our second ancestor 
had had weather like mine, he might possibly never 
have found his way down from the mountain, and he 
and his quadrupeds might have died of hunger. 

The next morning much resembled its predecessor : 
the mist was somewhat heavier, and the snow so 
deep that six horses were requisite. Instead of 
artificial runners, too, we had now rivers to cross. 
They were all frozen, of course, but not very hardly, 
and I observed that in approaching them, my driver 
always lashed up his team to a gallop, in the hope of 
getting across without a smash . He was successful in 
this manoeuvre until about mid- day, when we came to 
a stream a good deal broader than those we had 
already traversed. A more than usual amount of 
thong was applied, and we started across the ice as fast 
as our horses could go. But, alas, human calculations 
often fail, and when about to reach the further bank, 
smash goes the ice, down go the off-wheels through it, 
whilst team and driver fall confusedly in the heap so 
often mentioned. Jumping from my perch, it was 
some consolation to find that the ice did not seem 

78 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

likely to give way any further ; so the horses were put 
on their legs again, and attempts were made to drag 
the carriage out of its difficulty. Its wheels were, 
however, so jammed, and the quadrupeds found so little 
purchase on the slippery surface, that these were soon 
abandoned. So here we were, stuck in the middle of 
a river miles away from any village, with the ther- 
mometer at about ten degrees (of Keaumur) below 
freezing-point, and no apparent probability of being able 
to move on until a thaw came. 

My chapars took the matter very coolly : the occur- 
rence seemed by no means extraordinary to them : one 
cantered leisurely off to the next village, whilst the 
other remained to guard the carriage and to stop all 
passers-by to assist in dragging us out. My attendants 
being thus employed, and there being nothing to do 
until the villagers arrived, or a sufficient number of 
passengers had been assembled, my conducteur and I 
sat down to our luncheon, neither of us in the best of 
tempers. But a benign providence here interfered to 
restore equanimity and contentment to one of the party 
at least. As we were eating our last morsel of pdte-de- 
foie-gras, out came the sun, a vast gap of blue showed 
itself in the misty curtain, and Ararat's conical summit 
appeared sharply cut on this clear background, 
towering aloft above a sea of clouds and vapour. 
In an hour's time the sky was cloudless, and the great 
mystic mountain stood before me in all its symmetrical 
beauty, rising solitarily from the plain in its giant 
pride (for the hills at its base are barely worthy of the 

Fine View of Mount Ararat. 79 

name) and sloping away gradually and majestically up 
into two summits, Greater and Lesser Ararat, both 
perfectly conical in shape, and so gracefully and har- 
moniously blended together that the effect of the whole 
is perhaps more striking than if the mountain had 
terminated in a single peak. The two cones softened, 
to my eye, its huge masculine grandeur, and gave it 
the soft charm of feminine beauty : for the lesser one 
nestles in the bosom of the greater, like a beautiful 
flower in the breast of a fair lady. The extreme 
summit appeared slightly flattened, as if expressly 
designed for a resting-place for the ark. It is some 
16,000 feet above the sea-level, and when the rains 
ceased and the waters of the deluge began to subside, 
must have been the first land in this part of the world 
to appear above the surrounding flood, and probably 
long remained an island in the watery waste. 

In this, the scene of mankind's second birth, there 
was plenty of food for my imagination, which had 
time more than enough to lose itself in dreams of 
the remote past. Three hours elapsed before I was 
roused from my reveries by the arriyal of villagers with 
axes and ropes, and the hubbub created by the forced 
stoppage of a caravan of camels and donkeys, whose 
drivers were being reluctantly pressed into my service. 
The carriage had meanwhile been lightened of the 
baggage, and by the united efforts of peasants, 
drivers, and chapars, was at last brought to terra 
firma. Two stages more — during which the glaring 
refraction of the sun's rays from the snow was so 

80 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

painful that I could not keep my eyes open, and the 
cold so intense after darkness set in that I felt almost 
frozen — and we reach Nakhitshevan at eleven p.m. 
To welcome us, we find a post-house without glass 
in its windows, and a postmaster most chary of his 
fuel; so cramming my baggage into the window, I 
seek warmth in my bed. 

The orthography of the word Nakhitshevan is a 
subject of dispute between the partisans of the two 
traditions relative to the Ark's resting-place. Those 
who are in favour of the Ararat theory maintain that, 
written as above, it means " first abode or settlement," 
or " first descent;" whilst their opponents as per- 
sistently deny this signification. Assuming the former 
to be correct, we must suppose that here was about the 
spot where Noah planted the first vine, primary source 
of so much conviviality, cause of so much woe, and 
remote origin of the occupation of the authors of 
permissive bills. What would have been the lot of 
these gentlemen, had that little plant sickened and 
died, and left no offshoots ? I presume there are still 
vineyards at Nakhitshevan, but have no proof of the 
fact, as two or three feet of snow covered the earth, 
and my postmaster did not offer me a stirrup-cup as 
I left the miserable-looking little town next morning. 

A drive of four hours down a gradual descent most 
favourable to the ventre-a-terre pace, through some 
wild rocky defiles opening out towards the end of the 
stage into a plain surrounded by lofty mountains, 
brought us within sight of our last Russian post-house, 

Nakhitshevan — Julfa on the Araxes. 81 

by name Julfa, and of the Araxes, the boundary between 
Russia and Persia. 

Two swarthy individuals, clothed in long boots, 
wide dark-blue knickerbockers and jackets of the 
same colour lined with fur, and wearing gaudy necker- 
chiefs bound tightly round their shaven heads and 
hanging down behind their necks and ears, armed 
too with huge knives and a brace of pistols a* piece, 
assisted me from my carriage. They turned out to be 
Gholam Abdul Rezah Beg and Lazar, a Nestorian 
servant, sent down by her Majesty's Consul-General 
at Tabreez to convoy me thither. Lazar spoke a few 
words of English, and forthwith handed me a letter 
from the Consul congratulating me on my safe arrival 
at the frontier and expressing the hope that, as the 
weather was very severe and there was much snow, 
the brigands and wild tribes who frequent this part of 
the country and find impunity for their crimes by 
continually transferring their residence from one side 
of the Araxes to the other, would prefer keeping them- 
selves warm at home to molesting my passage. A 
polite hint to me to keep my powder dry. 

The post-house of Julfa is the best on the road 
from Tiflis. A good substantial building, evidently 
meant to impress the Persians with a favourable idea 
of Russian power and civilization. A few surrounding 
huts, built of sun-dried bricks, the only other habita- 
tions in the place, bring out the dignity of its appearance. 
I found it well warmed too, and calculated on having 
at last a comfortable night. 


82 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

Lazar and the Gholam, however, at once dispelled 
these illusions, by telling me I should be much more 
comfortable on the Persian side of the river, where 
all was prepared for my reception, and that we 
must cross at once in order to be ready for an early 
start next morning, &c. I yielded very much contre- 
cceur, paid my Eussian conducteur, bade adieu to 
wheeled vehicles of all descriptions and descended to 
the swift-flowing yellow Araxes. 

( 83 ) 


Arrival in Persia — Persian Cookery, Towns, Post-houses, and 
Caravansaries — Oriental Hospitality — Feringhee — Tabreez 
— General Features of the Country — Population — Heir- 
Apparent to the Throne — Government — Visit from an 
Official Personage — Character of Persians — The Bab. 

A species of rudely-constructed raft conveyed myself 
and chattels across the river, and my inquiries as to 
where we were to pass the night elicited from Lazar 
the reply, " Telgeraf." In order more clearly to 
indicate his meaning, he, at the same time, pointed 
with his hand to a low mud-built edifice about a 
quarter-of-a-mile off, with which I could see that the 
telegraph wires communicated. These wires form one 
of the three telegraphic lines which connect England 
with India. They had been my constant companions 
from Tiflis, and were to be the only traces of Western 
civilization up to the gates of Tehran ; thence they 
are carried down to Ispahan, Shiraz, and Bushir, to 
meet the Persian G-ulf cable which connects them with 
Kurachee. Of the other two lines, one proceeds 
through Asia Minor to Baghdad and Bussorah, and 

84 Journey through the Caucasus and Persiar 

the other goes through Egypt, and thence by cable to 
Aden and Bombay. 

On entering the Persian Telegraph office I found its 
solitary official, a native, in high-peaked lambswool 
cap, flowing jubbah, wide loose trousers, and ample 
girdle, seated cross-legged on his carpet, whiling away 
the long hours of fasting (it was the season of the 
Kamazan) by fondling a couple of apples and calling 
upon Allah. He rose, and, with the stately courtesy 
common to all Persians, bade me welcome with the 
most ceremonious of salams. A carpet was spread for 
me, and at once became sacred ground, on which no 
one presumed to tread without first taking off his 
shoes. This universal national habit of leaving one's 
shoes at the door has many advantages, besides being, 
especially in hot weather, most agreeable. It prevents 
that frequently exasperating creaking noise one so 
often hears in Europe ; it to a certain extent conduces 
to cleanliness, and banishes the smell of leather. A 
Persian noble generally wears white socks ; the lower 
classes prefer coloured ones; many none at all, and 
these generally give their feet what is considered a 
coquettish appearance by dying the nails with henna. 

To complete my welcome, my Persian friend now 
approached with great reverence and begged my 
acceptance of a pomegranate, which he presented to 
me on the joined palms of both hands, it being dis- 
respectful to offer anything with one hand alone. He 
added that the Shah -in- Shah had expressly chosen 
him for this frontier station in consequence of his 

Persian Official — The Araxes — Native Cookery. 85 

knowledge of foreigners and their habits, and in order 
that they might thus be sure of a good reception on 
entering his dominions. Having thanked this elect 
of the Centre of the Universe, I took up my gun and 
went for a stroll on the river's bank. 

This portion of the valley of the Araxes is 
anything but cheerful in winter. The high hills, 
which shut it in, were covered with snow ; where 
mother earth peeped through her white mantle, she 
looked volcanic and arid ; a furious cutting wind was 
blowing, and, with the exception of some wild-fowl, at 
which it was impossible to get a shot, neither man 
nor beast enlivened the scene. 

On returning, I found that Lazar's culinary efforts 
had resulted in producing a meal composed of rice- 
soup, pilau with curded milk, and a fowl, which had 
probably seasoned both the preceding dishes. All 
Persians, let me here remark, have a notion of 
cooking, and the dishes they prepare are wonderful 
considering the means at their disposal. The traveller 
ought always to be provided with a supply of rice, 
tea, coffee, salt, pepper, and brandy; for with these 
primary ingredients his servants will cater for his 
board pretty well along the road. The kitchen-range, 
which the cook generally erects in the open air, 
consists of three or four bricks or stones, so placed 
that there may be a thorough draught between them : 
on these the pots and pans are placed, whilst the 
servants keep on supplying the necessary fuel. Eggs 
and fowls are always to be found in the post-houses ; 

86 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

except in the desert and very high passes, fruit like- 
wise ; and in most of the villages lamb and mutton. 
There is nothing better than a kebab of the latter. 
The Persian sheep is the fat-tailed one, i. e. its tail 
is enveloped in such a ponderous mass of fat that the 
animal always looks as if he had immense difficulty in 
carrying it all behind him, and old Chardin, somewhat 
of a blagueur, I fancy, affirms that in his time each 
sheep was furnished with a small platform on wheels 
to support this abnormal weight. The fat is very 
delicate, and a kebab is made by spitting alternate 
layers of fat and lean on a skewer, or oftener a ramrod, 
and after sprinkling with salt and pepper, and rubbing 
gently with a bit of garlic, broiling them over a wood 
fire. Of the merits of a pilau it is unnecessary to say 
anything further than that all European cooks ought 
to be sent to the East in order to learn how to boil 
rice. These two dishes afford a very fair meal ; they 
can be procured almost everywhere ; and I found my 
table much better furnished in Persia than in the 
Caucasian provinces of Russia, where the only certain 
thing is the samovar. 

After partaking of Lazar's viands, and unpacking 
my English saddle, holsters, and revolver, I was left 
in solitary possession of the telegraph office ; my bed 
being pitched between the two instruments which it 
contained. It was so piercingly cold when we left next 
morning that, even in fur coat and huge felt over-boots, 
it was difficult to keep the circulation going. My 
caravan consisted of self, two servants, three baggage- 

The fat-tailed Sheep — Kebabs — Persian Villages. 87 

horses, and the post-boy. The horses (we should call 
them ponies) seemed strong and fresh, and after 
calling at a village a mile or two beyond our last 
bivouac for an escort of wild-looking fellows fairly 
mounted and armed with native muskets, we began 
the ascent of the Dara Diz — a pass which leads up 
from the valley of the Araxes, through abrupt barren 
mountains, to the great Persian table-land, and is 
notorious for the robberies and murders of which it 
has been the scene. As we wound slowly up the 
narrow path, Lazar failed not to point out the fatal 
spots and to expatiate, as far as his English would 
allow him to do so, on the lawlessness and cruelty 
of the neighbouring Kurdish tribes. The snow and 
cold seemed, however, to have kept them at home ; 
though all the party were evidently relieved when, after 
an ascent of three hours, we reached the top of the 
pass and began cantering away over level ground and 
hard snow to our first Persian post-house (chapar 
khaneh) in the village of Irandibbi. 

Most Persian villages and towns have certain 
general features in common. They are for the most 
part surrounded with walls of sun-dried bricks ; the 
houses are principally of the same material, flat- 
roofed, and windowless towards the street ; which is 
always very narrow, full of holes and ruts, and the 
receptacle of refuse. The mosques are distinguished 
by domes, but minarets are not, as in Turkey, very 
prevalent : the Persian generally goes up on to the 
house-top to pray ; thence, too, the muezzin chaunts 

88 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

his summons to the faithful. In the capital and larger 
towns some of the mosques are covered with glazed 
tiles, and the bazaars and houses of the great are of 
stone or kiln-burnt bricks, but elsewhere there is 
seldom any colouring to break the brown monotony of 
the mud walls and roofs. Post-houses are invariably 
built on the same plan : they are square, enclosed by 
high walls, have a turret at each corner, and one 
entrance. Eight and left, and sometimes above this, 
are post-master's and travellers' rooms, the latter 
devoid of all furniture but a carpet, and sometimes 
undivided by wall or curtain from the stables, which 
range round three sides of the enclosure. On arrival 
the traveller is offered a kalian (hubble-bubble), whilst 
fresh horses are being got ready ; if he intends to 
pass the night he establishes himself and his belongings 
in the most convenient corner. Caravansaries, too, 
are all uniform in shape and construction, differing 
from each other only in size and state of repair. Their 
external appearance is that of four blank walls sur- 
mounted with parapets. A single arched doorway 
admits to a large court-yard, from 50 to 100 yards 
square, as the case may be, in the centre of which is a 
raised stone platform for the deposit of merchandise, 
and sometimes a well. Around the court, and looking 
on to it, are vaulted cells, lighted only from the front, 
which is generally completely open. The doorways 
have no doors, and if there be any windows they are 
devoid of frames and glass. The stables are frequently 
under the cells, Many of these buildings, especially 

Post-houses — Caravansaries — Stages. 89 

in the southern provinces, are substantial and hand- 
some, and are always preferable to the accommodation 
afforded by the post-houses or villages. 

As the towns, villages, post-houses, and caravan- 
saries resemble each other, so do the stages. They 
vary in length from twelve to twenty-five miles, and go 
through a repetition of the same scenery : for Persia 
is a succession of mountains and plains, and after a 
series of mountain stages one is certain to come to a 
series of level ones, and vice-versa. I need not, there- 
fore, do more than mention one or two incidents illus- 
trative of travelling post — chapar, in the native tongue 
— during my eighty miles' ride to Tabreez. 

First of all, I found that my horses were exceedingly 
fresh, a phenomenon which later experience has proved 
to be a most exceptional state of things. The steed I 
myself rode carried me two long stages, some forty odd 
miles, the first day, and ran away with me at the end 
of the journey. Then my baggage-horses, always 
allowed to run loose, were continually bolting off the 
path at full gallop, and attempting, sometimes success- 
fully, to kick their loads off into the snow, thus 
affording us some exciting runs of two or three miles, 
our object being to catch them before they succeeded in 
their intent. Whenever, too, we came to an unfrozen 
stream, great was the difficulty in counteracting their 
constant desire to lie down, baggage and all, in the water. 

The whole country, mountain and plain, was 
covered with snow, and the sky was very very blue. 
We halted in two flourishing villages, by name Marande 

90 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

and Sofian. We passed some large ruinous caravan- 
saries, dating from the reign of Shah Abbas the Great, 
and speaking of more prosperous times, but now 
tenanted by miserable lepers, who are banished here 
to the frontiers from the interior of the country, and 
who rushed out at us to gain our charity by the 
exposure of their hideous malady. On arriving at 
the gates of Tabreez all my luggage was impounded, 
on the pretext that I was smuggling gold lace, and only 
rescued from the hands of the customs officers by the 
aid of H.M.'s able Consul- General. 

One hears a great deal about Oriental hospitality. 
Anything very profuse or splendid in this line in 
Europe is sure to be termed Oriental, and one might 
almost imagine that Easterns pass their lives in giving 
magnificent fetes to the strangers who visit them. As 
far as Persians are concerned, this idea is certainly 
erroneous ; if they receive at all, they do so, it is true, 
with admirable courtesy of manner, great professions 
of friendship, and much apparent cordiality: as in 
Spain, everything is a la disposition de usted. But 
behind all this there is little, if anything, genuine and 
solid ; so little, indeed, that on being asked to dine in 
a Persian house, I have often found I was only doing 
the proper thing in taking half the dinner with me, 
and have not unfrequently received hints through the 
servants of my host, a few hours previous to the meal, 
that a supply of wine or spirits would be most welcome. 
The hospitality known to us as Eastern, and so 
agreeable to the traveller, is that afforded by Europeans 

Lepers — Oriental Hospitality — Varangians. 91 

established in the East. In their houses he is sure of 
the warmest welcome, can come in and go out as he 
listeth, stay as long as he likes, and live as if he were 
in his own abode. There being no hotels in the 
country, he quarters himself, as a matter of course, on 
any European he may find, and the latter would look 
upon it as a slight were he to do otherwise. This 
arrangement is agreeable to both host and guest, for 
whilst the latter feels himself at home, the former 
cannot but find pleasure in seeing a new face and 
exchanging ideas in a Western tongue. I felt, there- 
fore, no scruples on my arrival at Tabreez in quartering 
myself for a few days on the amiable family of the 
Queen's Consul- General. 

In his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gibbon 
relates at some length the origin of the once famous 
Varangian Guard. The term Varangians, or Corsairs, 
was, he says, first given to bands of adventurers from 
Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, living by pillage and 
rapine, who, in the ninth century, offered their services 
to the descendants of Ruric, and maintained by their 
valour and ferocity the princes of that house on the 
throne of Russia. Wladimir the First, finding he no 
longer required their services, and was not in a position 
to satisfy their exorbitant demands, persuaded them 
to seek more remunerative service under a richer 
master. They accordingly assembled at Constanti- 
nople, recruited by a numerous band of English and 
Danes, who fled from the yoke of the Norman Con- 
queror, and were incorporated as a body-guard of the 

92 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

Byzantine emperor. They preserved, he adds, to the 
last age of the Empire the inheritance of spotless 
loyalty and the use of the Danish or English tongue. 

The reader will probably here pitch my book into 
the fire, and think my wits have indeed gone a-wool- 
gathering. What on earth, he will ask, have the 
Varangians to do with Tabreez ? He may never have 
heard of the famous guard, and perhaps be as ignorant 
of their existence as were the Persian urchins who 
brought their deeds to my memory. But I would beg 
him to have just one moment's patience and to read 
on. Biding through the bazaar the morning after my 
arrival, ever and afton as I passed along, I heard, 
amongst the babel of sounds and street cries, the 
words "Feringhee," "Feringhee;" and as the term 
seemed connected with my person, and was the only 
one which, in my ignorance of the language of the 
country, had the definite form of a word to my ear, I 
naturally asked my companion the Consul what it 
meant. " Stranger," was the reply. "All Europeans 
are included in the term." As I afterwards found, 
this is the case all over Persia. The educated man 
has indeed some vague ideas that there are other 
countries and nations in the world besides his beloved 
and glorious Iran ; he knows something of Turkey, of 
India, and Arabia ; has heard of England, France, 
Germany, and Bussia, and, if his studies have been 
deep, even of Yengidunya — the young world — America; 
but for the masses there is in Europe, or rather west- 
wards of Constantinople, but one land, "Feringhistan," 

Origin of the term Feringhee — Tabreez. 93 

and one race, that of the " Feringhee." The Varan- 
gians came from that land, and their prowess or 
notoriety was so great that in this ultra-conservative 
of countries all foreigners are still designated by a 
corruption of their name. 

Tabreez is a very ancient city. Persians tell us 
it was founded by Zobeida, the wife of Haroun el 
Keschid, who delighted in its shady and well-watered 
gardens, and made it his favourite residence. Euro- 
pean geographers, however, place its origin at a much 
more remote period, and suppose it to be identical 
with Gansaca or Gaza, the capital of Atropatene — a 
part of Media, so called from Atropates, who after the 
death of Alexander made himself its independent 
ruler. For ages it has been a place of great importance, 
both commercially and politically. Under Hoolaloo 
Khan it became the capital of Persia. Marco Polo, 
writing of his visit to what he calls " La nobile citta 
di Toris," in 1272-73, says,* " Gli uomini di Toris 
vivono di rnercanzia e d'arti, cioe di lavorare drappi a 
seta e ad oro, ed e il luogo si buono che d' India e di 
Baudat e di Mosul e di Cremeser (Gherm-i-sir) vi 
vengono gli mercatanti, e gli mercatanti Latini vanno 
quivi e molto vi guadagnano." And again : " Intorno 

* " The people of Tabreez are traders and artists, i.e., makers of 
silk and cloth of gold, and their town is such a good mart that 
merchants go there from India, Baghdad, Mosul, and the warm region. 
Latin merchants go there also and make much money." " Around the 
city are beautiful gardens full of all sorts of pleasant fruits. The 
Saracens (Mahometans) of Tabreez are very malevolent and false." 

94 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

alia citta ha begli giardini e dilettevoli d'ogni frutta. 
Gli Sarraceni di Toris sono molto malvagi e disleali." 

It is still a great emporium for the trade of Persia 
with the West, the principal halting-place of all the 
caravans going down to Trebizonde, capital of the rich 
province of Azerbaijan, residence of the heir-apparent 
to the throne, and contains 120,000 inhabitants. 
Though some 3,800 feet above the sea- level, it is 
situated towards the eastern end of a wide open valley, 
through which runs a river whose waters irrigate the 
girdle of gardens which surround the town ; beyond 
this girdle all is barren and arid. Such is the case 
with nine-tenths of the Persian portion of that enormous 
table-land which, commencing in Asia Minor, near the 
sources of the Halys, or Kizil Irmak as it is now 
called, extends, with few depressions, south-eastward 
to the banks of the Indus. This region will be the 
scene of my travels for some time, and I shall be 
followed more easily if I here indicate in general terms 
its physical appearance, and give some data and general 
remarks as to its population. 

A reference to the map will show that Persia 
extends from the Caspian to the Persian Gulf, a 
distance of 700 miles from north to south, and from 
the frontiers of Turkey to Affghanistan, Seistan, and 
Beloochistan, or, in round numbers, 850 miles from 
west to east, and that it contains within these limits 
a space about equal to France and Great Britain. 
Along the shores of the Persian Gulf there runs a 
strip of plain, varying in breadth from ten to fifty 

Extent of Persia — Geographical Features. 95 

miles, which is little above the sea-level, and which, 
from its temperature, is called the gherm-i-sir, or warm 
region. Along the shores of the Caspian there is 
another strip of country of about the same breadth, 
equally low and flat. But there is this difference 
between the two — the southern one is, except in early 
spring, rainless, almost riverless, and generally arid 
and burnt, whilst the northern one is watered by 
continual rains and several considerable rivers, and is 
covered with magnificent forests, almost tropical vege- 
tation, and dense jungles in which the tiger roams 
at will. The rest of Persia comes under the name of 
Sirhad (cold region), and forms part of the great Asian 
plateau above mentioned, which varies in altitude 
above the sea-level from 3,000 to 4,000 feet, and from 
which arise chains of mountains in all directions. 
The two principal chains are the Zagros, running 
along the western frontier of the kingdom, and the 
Elburz, which separates the plateau from the low land 
towards the Caspian Sea, rises to an average height of 
9,000 or 10,000 feet, culminates in Mount Demavend, 
some sixty miles to the north-east of Tehran, and 
subsides again east of Meshed into the deserts of 
Kharazm. Spurs from these chains traverse the 
adjacent country, and in the vastest of Persian plains 
one is never out of sight of mountains. 

In the eastern portion of the country there are 
enormous deserts of sand and salt which no effort of 
man could render productive, and it has been calcu- 
lated that two-thirds of this elevated region are 

96 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

absolutely and entirely sterile. The soil of the re- 
mainder is good, and only requires water to make 
it excessively fertile. The rainfall is, however, very 
small ; the rivers, which in general are only fed by 
the melting of the snow accumulated on the mountains, 
lose themselves, with few exceptions, in the sands and 
salt lakes ; and the consequence is that, unless where 
artificial irrigation is employed, the eye in vain seeks 
relief on mountain or plain from the uniform and 
monotonous brown and grey colouring of the whole 
country. In early spring, it is true, herbs, generally 
of an aromatic nature, spring up and give a faint 
green tinge to the more favoured regions ; but in a 
month or two they are burnt up, and their withered 
stalks and leaves seem to render the brownness more 
brown and the aridity more arid. Such are the general 
features of Persian scenery ; though, as we shall see 
later, there are exceptions to the rule, and we shall 
find, especially towards the southern and south-western 
termination of the plateau, certain plains and valleys 
almost as green as those of Erin. 

Vegetation, then, depends on artificial irrigation, 
i. e. on manual labour. Now a gentleman, who has 
been long resident in the country and has traversed 
it in every direction, states that the total number of 
inhabitants falls short of 5,000,000 souls. We may 
divide them into three classes — townspeople, nomads, 
and villagers. There are five Persian tow us which 
contain more than 30,000 souls. They are Tehran, 
120,000; Tabreez, 120,000; Meshed, 70,000; Ispa- 

Sparse Population of Persia. 97 

han, 60,000 ; and Shiraz, 40,000. There are further 
twenty or thirty other places, which may be dignified 
with the name of town, and have populations varying 
from 5,000 to 25,000. I shall therefore probably not 
be far wrong in allotting 1,000,000 to the first class ; 
though, as a census is unknown, this and all other 
calculations are only approximative. The Eelkhanee 
of the Kaskai, the most powerful and numerous tribe 
in Persia, has 25,000 or 30,000 black tents; the 
Kelhor of Kermanshah have 11,000; the Zengeneh, 
10,000; the *Sheghaghee of Azerbaijan, 15,000 tents 
and houses. Besides these there are at least 100 
other tribes of lesser importance, and at the rate of 
five or six persons to each tent the total number of 
Nomads may be set down at 1,500,000. 

There would then remain 2,500,000 villagers, 
tillers of the soil and producers of vegetation. From 
personal observation, I should say that few villages 
contain more than 2,000 inhabitants ; many of them 
are very small, and an average of 300 may be fairly 
given to each. At this rate we should have some 
8,000 villages, scattered over a country equalling in 
extent France and Great Britain ; and it will thus be 
easily understood how the traveller may frequently 
ride for scores of miles without seeing either an atom 
of verdure or a single human being. The environs of 
Madrid present on a small scale the natural features 
of the greater portion of Persia. 

But I must hark back to Tabreez and its girdle of 
gardens, or, rather, orchards ; for cool shade, fruit, and 


98 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

running water are the great objects of Eastern horti- 
culture. The fruit-gardens are still very extensive, and 
celebrated for their peaches and apricots ; which, if I 
mistake not, were introduced from Persia to Europe. 
January was not, however, the month to appreciate 
their beauties and products, nor indeed to enjoy any 
out-door sight-seeing, for from the altitude of its 
position the winters are very severe and long. Luckily, 
beyond the novelty which a European must find in his 
first visit to a Persian town, there is not much to be 
seen. A fine mosque, called the Blue Mosque, from 
the colour of the varnished tiles in which it is cased, 
built by Abbas the Great early in the seventeenth 
century, but much injured by neglect and the earth- 
quakes * with which Tabreez has from time immemorial 
been continually visited ; the ark or residence of the 
heir- apparent, a large frowning building situated in a 
commanding position near the centre of the town ; 
the Great Maidan, a species of open square, in its 
front ; and the spacious and well-filled bazaars : that 
is about all. 

The life of an heir-apparent to an Eastern throne 
is not a bed of roses. He is always regarded with 
the utmost jealousy by the reigning sovereign, and in 
Persia is banished as far as possible from the capital. 
For many years it has been the custom to send him 

* Azerbaijan, of which Tabreez is the centre and capital, signifies 
" The Country of Fire" perhaps from this circumstance ; though its 
meaning has generally been explained by the number of fire-temples 
which are said to have existed there. 

The Heir-apparent — System of Government. 99 

off when yet a child to Tabreez, as governor of the 
province of Azerbaijan, and there he generally remains 
until called to the throne. The Tabreezis (malvagi in 
Marco Polo's time) are ever a fierce and unruly set of 
people, exceptionally impatient under taxation, the sole 
aim and object of government in the East, and he can 
have no very quiet times with them ; then his civil list 
is often in arrear or not forthcoming, so much so that 
he is often at a loss how to raise funds for his house- 
hold expenses. He must avoid making himself too 
popular, for his popularity would diminish that of the 
sovereign. He must pay up exactly to the royal 
treasury the revenue due from his province, and yet 
abstain from over-violence in its exaction, for fear of 
rousing revolt, or of being accused of encroaching 
upon the prerogatives of the crown. Altogether his 
best policy seems to be to efface himself during his 
sovereign's reign. 

The present system of government in Persia is very 
much what it was under the great kings. The country 
is divided into provinces, to each of which a governor 
(we may call him satrap) is deputed, removable of 
course at the will of the sovereign. Large sums are 
often paid for these satrapies. A fixed revenue is due 
from each ; and provided this be punctually paid, and 
the people be kept from open insurrection, the satrap 
may do pretty much as he likes, and grind as much 
money out of his province as he can. It is thus that 
he recoups the amount he has paid for his appointment 
and the sums he must now and then disburse to keep 

100 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

himself in favour at court, where he is always certain 
of having rivals anxious to replace him. He has almost 
absolute power over the subordinate authorities in his 
province, who in turn must pay up a fixed annual quota ; 
over and above which they also squeeze out from those 
below them further sums for themselves. These exactions 
are called in Persian, mudakl ; and from the Shah down 
to the meanest subordinate, mudakl is the aim and 
object of life : dearer far to the Persian's heart than 
would be the free gift of an equal sum, for in the 
process of squeezing it out of his inferiors he finds 
satisfaction for two of his most cherished passions — 
avarice and the unbridled exercise of power. 

The day after my arrival at Tabreez was devoted to 
receiving visits from the few Europeans in the place, 
and from a Persian official, who here represents the 
Minister for Foreign Affairs. Early in the morning 
there arrived from him a large circular tray, on which 
were four huge sugar-loaves, sugar- candy, and bon- 
bons, with a message to the effect that at two o'clock 
he would call on me. At the appointed hour I 
saw his Excellency enter the courtyard, preceded and 
followed by twenty servants in tall hats and long 
broad-cloth robes, marching solemnly two deep. On 
approaching the door the upper servants doffed their 
shoes and entered to announce their master — a lively- 
looking gentleman, with sparkling, cunning black eyes 
and long black beard, wearing a tall, brimless, lamb- 
skin hat, and dressed in a white abba,* lined with fur 
* Abba, a species of burnous or long loose mantle. 

Visit of an Official — Persian Characteristics. 101 

and embroidered with shawl lace and gold braid, drab 
trousers and varnished leather boots. He made me 
a stately salaam, bade me welcome to Persia, and 
made a flattering speech to me about England, which 
was duly translated by the Consul- General. Then 
tea, coffee, and pipes were introduced ; and the visit 
terminated by an exchange of many ceremonious 
phrases, and by my remunerating — unknown to their 
master, of course — the bearers of the sugar and sugar- 
plums with the usual buona mano. 

In Persia — more than in any other country, perhaps 
— a man's rank is indicated by his train de maison, the 
number of his wives, and especially by the number of 
servants who accompany him when he walks or rides 
abroad. The Shah travels about and goes on hunting 
excursions accompanied by thousands ; the great nobles 
have their hundreds, the lesser ones their scores, and 
so on. Many of these servants are unpaid ; they pick 
up crumbs about the house, receive cloth for a jubbah 
each new year, and eke out their livelihood by perqui- 
sites of the nature of the buona mano- 1 gave. I can't 
say much for their honesty: in ancient times the 
Persian was taught to shoot with the bow and speak 
the truth ; these two acquisitions may possibly have 
been so closely associated in the national mind, that 
when the one was disused the other was considered 
superfluous. However this may be, truthfulness is 
not now much cultivated : indeed, I remember a great 
noble, an educated man too, once asking me, somewhat 
after the manner of Pontius Pilate, " What is the use 

102 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

of speaking the truth?" With mendacity, cunning 
goes hand in hand in the Persian's character. He 
seems to derive so much occupation and amusement 
from their united practice, that he never is dishonest 
in a straightforward manner. He does not commit 
burglary, he seldom steals an article directly from 
your house, but he makes you pay double for whatever 
he has to buy for you, being in league with those with 
whom you personally bargain ; he tells you your house 
and stable gear has been stolen, and must be replaced, 
and is intoxicated with pleasure if he can smuggle back 
the article thus said to be lost as a bran new one. In 
short, his lively imagination must be gratified at the 
same time that his pocket is filled. 

He has, however, two good qualities, if not more, 
in a very remarkable degree — aptitude for almost any 
employment, and great powers of endurance. Evidence 
of this is visible, after a very short acquaintance with 
the country, amongst all classes. For instance, my 
head servant (a very handsome fellow, and a dandy in 
his way), when at home, had little else to do than to 
prepare my toilette, be smartly dressed, serve tea, 
coffee and pipes to visitors, and look after my house- 
hold. On a journey this fellow was everything — valet, 
groom, and cook. More than once I was obliged to 
ride post 250 miles at a stretch, never taking off my 
clothes, and only snatching a few winks of sleep whilst 
fresh horses were being procured at the post-houses. 
My servant, of course, never had time for a moment's 
rest, but he never seemed fatigued ; and after three 

Persian Aptitude and Power of Endurance. 103 

days' and two nights' continuous travelling would, on 
reaching the end of our journey, take a bath and 
reappear as fresh as when we started. He had, how- 
ever, the faculty of making up for lost time, by sleeping 
as often and as long as he pleased when he had 
nothing better to do. Most Persians seem to have 
complete command over sleep. As we should say, 
" I'm going for a walk," they say, " I'm off to sleep ; " 
and off they go at any hour of the day or night. 
Riding about the capital, I have frequently met cassids 
(letter-carriers) coming in from far-distant towns : 
these fellows had frequently been walking sixty or 
seventy miles a day for several consecutive days, but 
bore no traces of great fatigue. These are fair proofs 
of endurance ; and I am inclined to attribute the uni- 
versality of this quality amongst Persians to the fact 
that their infants are so little cared for and so much 
exposed, that the strongest ones alone arrive at the 
age of manhood. As to their capacity for turning 
their hands to almost anything, I need only give another 
instance, that of the present Minister for Foreign 
Affairs, who was, I believe, originally a kawagee, or 
preparer of coffee, in this very town of Tabreez, whence 
I have made such unpardonable digressions. I must 
add one more to their number, and then journey on 

Some twenty years ago — in 1850, I think — there 
was brought out one morning from the State prison a 
prisoner well bound with ropes and well guarded by 
soldiers. He was led to the Great Maidan, and there 

104 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

securely attached to a stout stake. A platoon of 
soldiers fired a volley at him; but when the smoke 
cleared away, instead of a lifeless corpse, the prisoner 
was seen scampering away over the open space to the 
nearest shelter. The musket-balls had cut his bonds, 
but left his person untouched. The bazaar was not 
far distant : had he once gained its labyrinths, he 
would in all probability have found friends to assist in 
hiding him, and thus have escaped; but bewildered, 
no doubt, by his critical position, he turned in an 
opposite direction, to a building nearer to him. It was 
a guard-house ; and there he was at once recaptured, 
once more led to execution, and shot down by a second 

By name Mirza Ali Mahommed, this individual was 
a native of Shiraz, who, after passing the earlier years 
of his manhood as a dervish, had, some time previ- 
ously to the date above mentioned, given himself out 
to be a prophet, assumed the name of Bab, a gate, — 
or Bab Eddin, the Gate of Faith, — and propounded doc- 
trines * as alluring to the minds of certain classes in 
Persia as those of the Communists were to the Sans- 
Culottes of Paris. There was nothing very original or 
new in these doctrines, even in Persia ; and it is pro- 
bable that a perusal of the history of his own country 
first introduced them to the notice of the Bab, for 

* This is the account, current in the country, of the doctrines of 
the Bab. A very different light is thrown on them by M. de Gobineau 
in his interesting work, Les Religions et Philosophies de VAsie Centrale. 

Creed of the Bdbee. 105 

they appear to be more or less analogous to the 
tenets of the " Assassins" (of whom more later), and 
the means employed to render them popular were 
somewhat similar to those used by the founder of that 
sect. The emancipation of women, and the equal dis- 
tribution of all the property of non-Babees amongst 
the followers of the Bab, were the chief inducements 
held out by the new prophet. To attain them he 
inculcated, as far as I could learn, the necessity of 
renouncing the Koran, and believing in the univer- 
sality of God and the unreality of death. God was in 
everything, he said, and everything was God. Virtue 
and vice had therefore no existence, since all actions, 
moral and physical, were emanations of the Deity. 
Death was simply the immediate passage of the soul 
and body to a better state. The Babees, however, I 
need hardly add, were alone entitled to the privileges 
of thus enjoying total irresponsibility for their actions 
in this world, and of feeling perfect security as to their 
happiness in the next. 

Imprisoned and bastinadoed for doctrines so sub- 
versive of Oriental despotism, the Bab had several 
times recanted his errors, and as often reverted to 
them. His teaching found favour in many parts of 
the kingdom, especially with the Seyeds and women ; 
and his adherents, as they increased in numbers, were 
emboldened to declare themselves openly, to raise the 
standard of the Bab — i.e. revolt, and to seize upon 
several towns and villages. Zenjan became their head- 
quarters, and there, after all their other conquests had 

106 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

been retaken by the royal troops, and for months after 
the execution of their chief, they defended themselves 
with a courage which in a better cause would be called 
heroic, and only succumbed at last to famine and 

That the Bab had great influence with his followers 
is proved by the fact that most of them fell fighting, 
and that the few who were taken prisoners refused 
their pardon at the price of recantation. If then he 
had not taken that, for him and them, unlucky turn 
towards the guard-house, all Tabreez would at once 
have attributed his escape through the bazaar to 
divine interposition, and having thus seen his claim to 
be a prophet substantiated by a miracle patent to all, 
would have been converted to his doctrines. It is, 
perhaps, futile now to speculate upon the consequences 
which the conversion of one of the most populous 
towns of the kingdom might have had upon an imagina- 
tive nation like the Persian. 

After the fall of Zenjan a fierce persecution ensued 
against all suspected of Babeeism, and for a time it 
was thought that the sect had been utterly destroyed. 
But in 1852 it again reappeared, and an attempt was 
made on the life of the Shah by a band of its 
adherents. Four of them lay in wait for him as he 
was riding out from his country palace, near Tehran ; 
they threw him from his horse, and, but for the bravery of 
his attendants, would have murdered him. One of the 
assassins was killed on the spot, the others were taken 
prisoners ; and terrible indeed was the fate of the 

Persecution and Fate of the Bdbees. 107 

latter, and of those who were inculpated as the con- 
federates of their crime and sharers of their belief. 
Some were blown from mortars, some hewn to pieces ; 
one was horse-shod and danced to death, and several 
had lighted candles inserted in holes drilled in their 
flesh, and were thus dragged by the neck through the 
bazaars of the capital until life became extinct. But 
notwithstanding these examples, so dreaded had the 
sect become and so fearful was the prime minister of 
the day of its future vengeance, that he shrank from 
bearing alone the responsibility of these executions, 
and with a view to distribute it over as many heads as 
possible, had recourse to the expedient of causing one 
victim to be killed by a superior employe of each of the 
chief government offices. 

A second general persecution followed, resulting in 
the death and flight of many guilty, and, I dare say, 
as many innocent persons. For Persians have no 
scruples and covet each other's property ; and much 
was, no doubt, made of this golden opportunity for 
those in power to enrich themselves with the goods of 
their enemies. But still Babeeism is not extinct; 
twenty years after these events, I have frequently 
heard such and such a one denominated a Babee, and 
there are still not a few persons who believe that the 
Bab did really escape death and will shortly reappear. 

108 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 


Departure from Tabreez — Some of the Discomforts of Posting 




At dawn, on the 28th of January, 1866, my six post- 
horses appeared at the door of the Consul-General's 
house. It was a bleak, cold, snowy morning, anything 
but inviting for the commencement of a ride of 370 
odd miles, and with much reluctance I buried my legs 
in huge felt boots, and my body in a fur coat, and 
wished good-by to my comfortable quarters and 
hospitable friends. Due care had been taken to 
renew my stock of provisions, and as a last welcome 
attention my hostess had, I found, furnished me with 
some loaves of English-made bread. The word loaf 
does not, I presume, exist in the Persian language, 
unless in its reference to sugar, for it certainly cannot 
be applied to the bread of the country. A Persian 
baker rolls out his dough into large thin flat cakes, 
pitches them for a few minutes into a heated oven, or 
in default of this on a heap of charcoal embers, and 
then throwing them over his shoulder, as we should 

Departure from Tabreez — Its Buins, 100 

a coat or a cloak, marches off to distribute them to 
his customers. Being only half-baked, the bread always 
remains flexible, and, besides being the staff of life, 
serves the purpose of platter and napkin at a native 
meal. A few English loaves were therefore a treasure. 
Issuing from the gates of Tabreez we began to 
ascend the acclivities which approach it from the east, 
and for a mile or so our way lay through a quantity of 
ruins, which attest the former size of the town. To the 
left and on the heights were visible the remains of a 
large fortress built of huge quarried stones — anomalies 
in a country of mud and sun-dried brick-buildings, 
which almost tempt me to stop and indulge in specula- 
tions as to their origin ; but I have dallied too long 
already, and in order to get over the ground more 
quickly, I shall henceforward confine myself as strictly 
as possible to transcripts of the notes which I generally 
found time to jot down, under considerable difficulties, 
each night in my diary. 

January 28th. — Passing more than the usual 
number of villages, we began to ascend gradually, 
and after traversing a plain bounded by mountains, 
as usual, reached Washmich, or Bosmeech, a lone 
post-house at the entrance of a wild gorge, at noon. 
After breakfast there, we crossed a short steep pass and 
emerged on another plain, over which we cantered to 
Hadjivava, our night quarters. There was constant 
bother with the luggage, in ridding themselves of which 
post-horses show great ingenuity. The deep snow 

110 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

on the road had been beaten by the passage of 
caravans into furrows whose regularity and depth 
would have rejoiced the eyes of a north-country 
ploughman ; our pace was very slow in consequence : 
we only got over twenty-eight miles. Hadjivava, 
typical of many other Persian villages, may be de- 
scribed as consisting of a lot of mud-hovels, a few 
poplars and a brook. The traveller's-room at the 
post-house opened on a stable, but was not uncomfort- 
able, as the chimney did not smoke. 

29th. — If the Irishman houses with his pig, 
the Persian litters with his horse. After a long ride of 
twenty-four miles, my only place of repose for break- 
fast was a chakoo, or raised dais of dried mud, in the 
stable. A few small holes in the roof admitted just 
enough light to eat by, and see the horses feeding or 
kicking each other, the two chief occupations of 
Persian post-horses : I should rather say the latter is 
the chief one, for they never get many opportunities of 
indulging in the former. 

Bitterly cold. First stage across a plain, alarmingly 
furrowed with snow furrows. Second, up hill and 
down dale, and at last, down a very steep hill into 
Turkmanchai, a considerable town : here a treaty, 
fixing the boundaries of Russia and Persia as they at 
present exist, was signed in 1828. In the post-house 
outside the town, a door once separated the traveller's- 
room from the stables ; its absence afforded me a 
view of an immediate foreground of servants and post- 
boys eating garlic and bread and smoking hubble- 

Winter Experiences of Post- Houses — Mianeh. Ill 

bubbles. Horses filled the rest of the picture ; they 
are clever, spirited little brutes and trot and canter 
over the furrows with hardly a stumble. I found my 
lump-sugar reduced to very fine powder. The gurgling 
sound of the pipes and the champing of bits sent me 
off to sleep in an atmosphere reeking with tobacco- 
smoke and ammonia. 

30th. — Through fog and a succession of rugged 
defiles to Mianeh, a village said to be situated on the 
ancient boundary line of Media and Parthia : hence 
its name, which in English means H between." The 
place is notorious for its bugs, whose bite is exceed- 
ingly dangerous, and sometimes even fatal, to all except 
Mianese. I was shown some of these insects, which 
appeared to me larger and of a deeper colour than 
their European brethren. To avoid making acquaint- 
ance with their poison, I breakfasted on a heap of 
rubbish at the post-house door, the only spot free 
from snow. Hence we ascended the Koflan Kuh, 
or Leopard Mountain, part of a lofty range separating 
the province of Azerbaijan from that of Irak. 
Arrived at the summit of the pass, the mist cleared 
and the sun shone warmly out of Persia's clear blue 
sky. The view towards the east was grand from its 
extent, and the air so astonishingly pure that I could 
hear the voices of my servants, who had lagged near 
half a mile behind, as if they had been close to 
me. The descent was difficult and dangerous from 
the slippery state of the road. At its foot we found 
a large caravansary dating from the time of Abbas 

112 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

the Great, and a post-house ; but hearing that the 
poison of its insects was almost as deadly as that 
of the denizens of Mianeh, I determined to go 
on another stage. It was only twelve miles over a 
plain, and we did it in two hours, trotting along the 
whole way without intermission. There being proper 
doors to the post-room, I enjoyed unusual privacy. 
Three stages to-day — forty-eight miles. 

31st. — Snow fell during the night and our first 
stage of sixteen miles. The road followed pretty 
closely the course of a river — the Deerzy, I believe, 
by name — which has worn itself a deep bed in the 
plain. My horse fell at the extreme edge of a per- 
pendicular cliff, overhanging the stream, and if he had 
rolled, or I had come off, these lines would never have 
been written, I presume ; for I don't know any one 
who has lived to describe his sensations during a fall 
of some sixty or seventy feet. Second stage, twelve 
miles, performed in one hour and forty minutes : 
very warm work, as the sun came out. Our third 
stage of twenty-four miles was to take us into Zenjan, 
and we started on it at 3 p.m. The fresh-fallen snow 
was very deep, frequently reaching to our girths, and 
we made slow progress. When about five miles distant 
from our destination, it being nearly dark, an icy 
hurricane came on, freezing one's blood, one's brain, 
too, almost ; driving the snow with blinding fury in 
one's face, and obliterating all footprints of man or 
beast. The post-boy, whose duty it is to ride ahead 
and lead the way, confessed himself uncertain as to 

Lost in the Snmo — Timely Relief. 113 

our whereabouts, and led us first to the right and then 
to the left in a vain search after some landmark which 
might indicate our route. Thus we wandered up and 
down for hours in the darkness and snow and biting- 
wind, and an occurrence which had happened two or 
three years previously to an acquaintance of mine 
presented itself with disagreeable vividness to my 
mind. Travelling along this very same road on his 
way to Europe, he was overtaken by one of these 
hurricanes, lost his way, and remained thirty-six 
hours in the snow. He had some brandy and bread 
with him, and with these and constant movement 
managed to keep himself awake and alive ; but two of 
his attendants, Persians, preferring death to the 
agonies of such extreme cold, took opium and never 
awoke again. The wretched horses ate each others' 
tails off, but survived. 

Though I of course hoped to get out of our 
ugly difficulties better than my friend, the proba- 
bility of passing the night in the snow seemed each 
moment to increase, and weary and frozen I had 
almost made up my mind to it, when a blast of wind, 
more violent and icy than its fellows, wafted the 
welcome sound of a tinkling mule-bell to our ears. It 
at once woke me up from that despairing numbness, 
physical and moral, which extreme cold produces on 
the human frame, and sent up the thermometer of 
hope very high indeed. Making towards the spot 
whence the sound proceeded, we came upon a caravan 
of mules. A parley ensued between their drivers 


114 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

and my attendants, which lasted so long that, though 
I understood no Persian, I soon perceived that our 
neighbours were in the same plight as ourselves. 
There was much shrieking and yelling, but as it 
seemed to lead to no result, I got tired of it, and so did 
my very sagacious baggage-horses ; each day since 
my arrival in Persia they had shown signs of irre- 
pressibility, and now attempted to execute their usual 
freak of bolting. They moved along slowly at first, 
and we spurred and whipt after them as close as we 
could, fearing lest in the darkness we should lose 
sight of them for ever ; but the nearer we got to 
them, the faster they went : we were soon all galloping 
along as hard as we could go, and, once in a gallop, 
Persian post-horses will follow their leader till they 
drop, rather than be left alone in the desert. It was 
a wild careering ride in the snow and darkness, but it 
warmed our blood, and eventually saved us from 
horrors of which we had already had a sufficient fore- 
taste ; for the way we sped, turned out to be the right 
one, and led us straight to the gates of Zenjan. In- 
dulgence to the freaks of a baggage-horse is the moral. 
Threading a long bazaar, where pitchy dark- 
ness was rendered visible by the feeble light of a 
tallow dip here and there, we at last reached the post- 
house between ten and eleven o'clock. The chimney 
of my room had no vent ; until the wood fire burnt 
itself out, door and window were opened, but sufficed 
not to draw off the dense canopy of smoke which 
filled the room to within three feet of the floor. To 

Sagacious Post-Horses — Zenjan — Sultania, 115 

escape the torments which it caused to my bloodshot 
eyes and burning cheeks, I crept into my bed, which 
even under these circumstances, was paradise after 
what I had gone through. 

February 1st. — Zenjan is a considerable town ; 
fortified according to Persian fashion, by a mud wall. 
This was all I saw, as I left as early as possible. A 
three-hours' ride brought us to Sultania, residence of 
Sultans, and capital of the country in former days 
when Persia's sovereigns still styled themselves by that 
title. It is now a mass of ruins, tenanted by a few 
hundred inhabitants, but famous for the salubrity of 
its air and the excellence of the pasture which its 
magnificent plain affords. The Shah has a modern 
palace and large breeding stud here. Of the former 
glories of the place there remains but one monument, 
a large mosque tomb, built by Sultan Mahomed 
Khodabund, the first Persian monarch who publicly pro- 
claimed the doctrine held by the Shiah sect of Maho- 
metans (of which more later) . With a view probably 
to establish it more firmly in the minds of his subjects, 
he entertained the project of transporting hither the 
remains of Ali and Hossein, and accordingly spent 
large sums in rendering the tomb worthy to receive 
them. Its dome is one of the largest in Persia — 
150 feet high — and was entirely covered with yellow 
porcelain tiles of great beauty : few of them remain at 
present. On the inside walls was written the whole of 
the Koran, only a few verses of which are still legible. 

Easterns possess in the written character of their 

116 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

languages a source of architectural decoration which 
fails us completely. The German character might 
perhaps be introduced on certain buildings with effect, 
but who ever thought of ornamenting the walls of 
St. Paul's with verses from the Bible in Latin letters ! 
The sun was very powerful all day, and, notwithstand- 
ing green spectacles, my eyes suffered dreadfully from 
the refraction. Our second stage was most laborious : 
we wallowed through snow so deep that our horses' 
hoofs never reached the ground, and did not arrive at 
our night quarters until after seven, having been 
ten and a half hours in performing forty-four miles. 
The changes of temperature are most trying. Morning 
and evening are intensely cold : my breath then con- 
geals and freezes my vashlik, or hood, to my mus- 
tachios and whiskers. At noon, when there is sun, 
one swelters in fur clothing. 

2nd. — A bright sunny clear day. Road eastwards, 
over a long plain with a low line of hills to the north. 
Snow less troublesome than yesterday. Got over 
two stages, of twenty miles each, in less than eight 
hours. The post-house being in ruins, put up in a 
villager's house. My room was vaulted, whitewashed, 
and clean. In all the walls were square niches, where, 
in the absence of tables and cupboards, the house- 
hold goods and chattels were stowed away. There 
was no fireplace or chimney, provision for ventilation 
being made by three holes pierced in the arched ceiling. 
Underneath these, and in the centre of the room, 
was the "kourci," a heating apparatus much in use 

Village Domestic Arrangements. 117 

all over Persia. It consists of a large jar filled with 
charred fuel, half buried in the floor. During the day 
it serves the purpose of a kitchen-range ; at night it is 
covered with a wooden frame and thick wadded quilt, 
under which the members of the household insert their 
persons as far as their shoulders, whilst cushions, 
beyond the limits of the quilt, support their heads. 
Persians are not in the habit of undressing at night, 
and therefore this species of promiscuous bed-going is 
less shocking to our ideas than it would be in European 
countries. But though economical, it is a nasty method 
of procuring warmth ; somewhat dangerous too, for if 
the sleeper draws the quilt over his head, suffocation 
from the fumes of the charcoal ensues. Had a great 
treat to-day in the shape of some grapes : in this dry 
atmosphere they can be kept, it seems, for almost any 
length of time. 

3rd. — Where quadrupeds are the only means 
of locomotion, the time occupied in traversing a given 
distauce must depend a good deal on the state of the 
moon. For even in summer and autumn, when the 
roads are at their best, one makes slow progress 
without it, even with the lantern which the post-boy 
then bears as its substitute. In winter there is, as we 
have seen, nothing to be gained and much to be risked 
by venturing forth on a moonless night. This morning 
the Nestorian Lazar awoke me at three with the words, 
" Moon, sir, moon." It was full and very bright as 
we left our quarters an hour later, after a bowl of hot 
tea, and rode over the long snow-covered plain of 

118 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

Kasvin towards the town of that name. As the rosy 
dawn appeared in the east it declined westwards in 
receding folds of violet blue, but was still above the 
horizon when the sun shot his first rays into our eyes. 
No words of mine would do justice to the colouring at 
sunrise and sunset in this limpid atmosphere. Still 
less can I attempt to describe to those who have not 
experienced jt the peculiar effect on the mind and 
feelings of the contemporaneous presence of these two 
full orbs in a cloudless sky on a windless morning. I 
almost hesitate at adding the latter condition, as when- 
ever I have been up early enough to witness the 
phenomenon there never has been any wind : perhaps 
the two great lights take special measures to prevent 
interference, by any disturbing element of this nature, 
with the universal silence which so enhances the awing 
charm they, may be consciously, inspire. 

However that may be, rny speculations on the 
subject were abruptly put an end to by a headlong 
fall. The previous day's sun had melted the snow, 
and our path was simply a sheet of ice, on which 
the horses slipped at each step and often came to 
grief. None of our mishaps were serious, for the 
snow on each side almost reached the girths, and 
the beaten track was so narrow that when our horses 
fell in the latter we were invariably landed on the 
former. As I was gathering myself together from 
one of these falls a horseman, wrapped in furs, galloped 
up. His face was almost black from the combined 
action of the bitter winds and burning refraction, and 

Effects of Wind, Snow and Sun on Travellers. 119 

so swollen that he could scarcely see out of his eyes : 
features he seemed to have none. My surprise was there- 
fore considerable, and my pleasure not less when he 
accosted me with "Bon -jour," pronounced with a very 
German accent. Since quitting Tabreez I had had 
neither the opportunity nor the means of exchanging 
many ideas. On the road w T e had met but one 
solitary traveller, a Russian courier galloping west- 
wards with despatches, and a few caravans of mules 
and asses. At our halting-places I had seen only post- 
boys and grooms. Had my knowledge of Persian been 
greater than it was it would not have availed much, as 
in most of the districts we had traversed Turkish is 
the language spoken. Lazar's knowledge of English 
was so limited that, after one day's experience of it, I 
had given up all attempts at conversation with him ; 
and, in default of a companion to whom I could express 
my sentiments, had taken the telegraph poles and 
wires into my confidence. These were the only objects 
with which I felt any sympathy, and they alone 
seemed to connect me in any way with the many nice 
people and things I had left behind me in Europe. 
They had been, too, of great service in other respects, 
for they had shown me the road when every other 
indication of it was hidden by the snow: indeed I 
looked upon them as friends ; but as they were deaf 
and dumb, I was heartily glad of an opportunity of 
unsealing my lips to a human ear. My fellow-traveller 
turned out to be a German commercial man going up 
to his place of business, Tehran. He had ridden 

120 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

hard and fast to catch me up, for company's sake, and 
we performed the rest of our long stage of twenty- 
four miles into Kasvin together. There he was so 
knocked up that I was forced to proceed onwards 
without him. 

Kasvin, too, is a very ancient town (what Persian 
town is not '?), and was, previous to the reign of Abbas 
the Great, long the capital of the country. It is 
situated on a plain, which extends far away to the 
south-east of Tehran, and is probably 200 miles in 
length, and being on the high-roads from the capital 
to Tahreez and to the Caspian Sea, is a place of con- 
siderable traffic. From the number of its Medrassehs 
or Colleges it has the reputation of being a learned 
and scientific city. Its neighbourhood is compara- 
tively well watered, fertile and very productive, 
amongst other things, of the best grapes I have ever 
eaten : the cheapest too, for a mule-load costs three 
shillings. About twenty miles to the north of the town, 
hidden away amongst the Elburz mountains, lived 
the founder of a sect which for near 200 years was the 
terror and dread of kings and peoples, but of which, 
as Gibbon observes, ' ' no vestige is left, except the 
word Assassin, which, in the most odious sense, has 
been adopted in the languages of Europe." Hossein, 
hence the word, was his name, and his doctrines and 
the deeds of his emissaries are too well known for me 
to think of describing them. I can't help, however, 
here inserting an extract from our friend Marco Polo, 
who visited Kasvin very shortly after the extermination 

City of Kasvin — Sect of the Assassins. 121 

of the sect by Hoolaloo Khan about 1260, and whose 
account of the means employed by the Old Man of the 
Mountain, as he calls him, to secure implicit obedience 
from his followers, is most graphic : — 

"Del Veglio della Montagna, e come fece il Paradiso, 
e gli Assassini. 

" Milice e una contrada dove il Veglio della Mon- 
tagna soleva dimorare anticamente. Or vi conteremo 
1' affare, secondo che Messer Marco intese da piu 
uomini. Lo Veglio e chiamato in lor lingua Aloodin. 
Egli avea fatto fare fra due montagne in una valle lo 
piu bello giardino e 1 piu grande del mondo : quivi 
avea tutti frutti, e li piu belli palagi del mondo, tutti 
dipinti ad oro, e a bestie, e a uccelli : quivi era 
condotti : per tale veniva acqua, e per tale mele, e per 
tale vino. Quivi era donzelli e donzelle gli piu belli 
del mondo, e che meglio sapevano cantare e sonare e 
ballare : e faceva lo Veglio credere a costoro che 
quello era lo paradiso. E percio il fece, perche 
Malcometto disse, che chi andasse in paradiso 
avrebbe di belle femine tante quante volesse, e quivi 
troverebbe fiume di latte e di miele e di vino. E gli 
Saracini di que] la contrada credevano veramente che 
quello fosse lo paradiso ; e in questo giardino non 
entrava se non colui, cui egli voleva fare assassino. 
Lo Veglio teneva in sua corte tutti giovani di dodici 
anni, li quali gli paressero di diventare prodi uomini. 
Quando lo Veglio ne faceva mettere nel giardino, a 
quatro, a dieci, a venti egli faceva loro dare a bere opio, 

122 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

e quegii dormivano bene tre di, e faceva gli portare 
nel giardino, e al tempo gli faceva ispogliare. Quando 
gli giovani si svegliavano, egli si trovano la dentro, e 
vedendo tutte queste cose, veramente si credevano 
essere in paradiso, e queste donzelle sempre istavano 
con loro in canti e in grandi sollazzi : donde egli 
aveano si quello che volevano ; che mai per Jo volere 
non si sarebbono partiti di quello giardino. II Veglio 
tiene bella corte e ricca, e fa credere a quegii 
di quella montagna, che cosi sia com' io v' ho 
detto ; e quando egli ne vuole mandare alcuno di 
quelli giovani in alcuno luogo, li fa loro dare beve- 
raggio che dormono, e fagli recare fuori del giardino 
in sul suo palagio. Quando coloro si svegliono tro- 
vansi quivi, molto si maravigliano, e sono molto tristi, 
che si trovano fuori del paradiso. Egli se ne vanno 
incontanente dinanzi al Veglio, credendo che sia un 
gran profeta, e inginochiansi. Egli gli domanda : 
' Onde venite ?' Kispondono : ' Dal paradiso,' e con- 
tangli quello che v' hanno veduto entro, e hanno 
gran voglia di tornarvi : e quando il Veglio vuole fare 
uccidere alcuna persona, egli fa torre quello lo quale 
sia phi vigoroso, e fagli uccidere quello cui egli vuole : 
e coloro lo fanno yolontieri per ritornare nel paradiso. 
Se scampano, ritornano al loro signore; se e preso, 
vuole morire, credendo ritornare al paradiso. E quando 
lo Veglio vuole fare uccidere alcuno, egli lo prende e 
dice : ' Va, fa tal cosa, e questo ti fo perche ti voglio 
fare ritornare al paradiso : ' e gli assassini vanno e fan- 
nolo molto volentieri. E in questa maniera non campo 

The Old Man of the Mountain. 123 

niuno uomo dinanzi al Veglio della Montagna, a cui 
egli lo vuole fare ; e si vi dico che plu re li fanno 
tributo per quella paura. Egli e vero che negli anni 
1260, Alan, signore dei Tarteri del Levante, che sapeva 
tutte queste malvagita, egli penso tra se medesimo di 
volerlo distrnggere, e mando de' suoi Baroni a questo 
giardino, e istettonvi tre anni attorno al castello prima 
che 1' avessero : ne mai non lo avrebbero avuto, se 
non per fame. Allotta per fame fu preso, e fu morto 
lo Veglio, e sua gente tutta : e d' allora in qua non vi 
fu piu Veglio niuno; in lui fu finita tutta la signoria."* 

* " Of the Old Man of the Mountain, and how he created Paradise, 
and the Assassins. 
" Milice is the place where the Old Man of the Mountain used 
formerly to dwell. We will now tell his story as Marco heard it 
related by several persons. In their language he is called Aloodin. 
In a valley between two mountains, he had caused to be made the 
largest and most beautiful garden in the world. In it were all sorts 
of fruits : the most beautiful palaces, covered with paintings, in gold, 
of beasts and birds : conduits running, some with water, some with 
honey, and some with wine : and the fairest youths and maidens, who 
excelled in singing, playing and dancing. The Old Man persuaded 
them that this garden was Paradise, and he succeeded in this because 
Mahomet said that he, who entered Paradise, would find there as 
many beautiful women as he desired, and rivers of milk, honey and 
wine. The Saracens of the country really believed it was Paradise, 
and no one was allowed to enter it but those whom the Old Man 
wished to make assassins. He kept at his court all the youths of 
twelve years of age who, he thought, would become valiant men, and 
when he sent them, by fours or tens or scores, into the garden, he 
made them take opium and they slept for three days, and then he 
caused them to be carried into it and undressed. On waking, the 
youths found themselves in the garden, and seeing all these things, 
really thought themselves in Paradise : and the maidens remained 

124 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia, 

After breakfasting at Kasvin, got over two more 
stages before dark — fifty-two miles in all. 

4th. — Started at three a.m. The first stage over snow 
and ice, took me five and a half hours. During the 
second we passed close under a spur of the Elburz ; 
the third was to be my last, and as we cantered over 

with them always, singing and giving them many pleasures : so that 
they had everything they desired and, of their own accord, would 
never have quitted the garden. The Old Man holds a rich and 
brilliant court and he persuades the people of the mountain that it is 
as I have said : and when he wishes to send any of the youths any- 
where, he causes a beverage to be given them which makes them 
sleep, and has them brought out of the garden to his palace. There 
they find themselves when they awake, and are surprised and sad to 
be outside Paradise. They go at once to the Old Man, whom they 
believe to be a great prophet, and kneel before him. He asks them : 
1 Whence do you come ? ' They answer : ' From Paradise,' and 
tell him what they have seen there and that they much desire to 
return ; and when the Old Man wishes to kill any one, he chooses the 
most vigorous of the youths and makes him kill him. This they do 
willingly in order to return to Paradise : if they escape, they return 
to their master : if they are taken, they court death in the belief that 
they will thus re-enter Paradise. And when the Old Man wishes to 
kill any one, he calls a youth and says : ' Go, do this, I give thee 
this commission, because I wish thee to return to Paradise,' and 
the assassins go and do it with great alacrity. And in this manner, 
no one whom he wishes to kill can escape the Old Man of the 
Mountain ; so that many kings, I tell you, pay him tribute from fear. 
It is true that in the year 1260, Hoolaloo, the Lord of the Tartars of 
the east, who knew all these iniquities, thought within himself to 
destroy the Old Man, and sent his barons to this garden, and they 
besieged the Castle three years before they took it ; nor would they 
ever have taken it, but for famine. Then they took it by famine, and 
the Old Man was killed with his people : and since then there is no 
other Old Man : with the first the whole brood was destroyed." 

First Vieiv of Tehran — British Legation. 125 

the plain, I kept straining my eyes to catch a glimpse 
of the capital of him who styles himself King of Kings 
and Centre of the Universe, expecting of course to see 
something worthy of containing a being rejoicing in 
such sonorous titles. But neither this modest expec- 
tation, nor another one in which I had often indulged 
during the miseries of my long ride, were to be 
satisfied. Arrived within sight of Tehran, I could 
perceive but a long low line of brown mud wall, 
capped here and there by the brown domes, very like 
ant-hills, of some insignificant mosques, rising above 
the snow-covered plain and backed by huge snow- 
covered mountains. Inside its gates I had to traverse 
bazaars as ruinous, and streets, or rather lanes, as 
squalid as any I had seen in any other Persian town ; 
and on dismounting at sunset at the gates of her 
Majesty's Legation, I was shown to a room painfully 
similar to my quarters of the last week, the only 
apparent difference being that there were some panes 
of glass in the window-frames, a carpet on the floor, 
and a chimney which did not smoke. Thus are 
fancy's creations frequently dissolved : I had dreamt 
of tall minarets, gilded domes, and lofty bazaars ; I 
found what I have just sketched. I had dreamt of a 
warm comfortably-furnished apartment, or at least of 
something like civilized accommodation ; I found that I 
must camp on still. " Lazar, bring in my bed and go 
and see if you can buy me a chair." 

After passing the best part of eight days and 
nights in the saddle, and riding sixty miles on the last 

126 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

of them, there is no greater luxury than a Persian 
bath. As the bathman shampoos each muscle and 
joint one feels new life instilled into one's members, 
whilst the damp warm atmosphere produces a delicious 
feeling of soothing relaxation in every vein. 

Thus refreshed, and after a late dinner at the table 
of the English Envoy, or Yasir Muchtar as he is here 
called, even my dismal quarters appeared less dismal. 
For though comfort was wanting, I could at least con- 
gratulate myself on being out of the snow ; which, as 
has been seen, had been my bete noir from the shores 
of the Euxine to the gates of my new home, and which 
had left painful marks on my person in the shape of 
swollen features, burnt skin, bloodshot eyes, and 
cracked lips. 

( 127 ) 


Situation and General Appearance of Tehran — A Persian 
House — European Colony — The Telegraph — Food — "Wine 
— Seating — The Shah's Practical Jokes — The Persian 
Aruy — Hunting and Hawking— Horses. 

Sun-dried bricks and mud mixed with straw — the 
latter now, and probably ever since the days of Moses, 
as much a subject of contention and haggling as at 
the time of the Exodus — have often been mentioned 
in the preceding pages as the materials generally 
used in Persian buildings. They are sufficiently hard 
to resist the dissolving influence of the very small 
amount of rainfall; they are cheap and always at hand. 
A further reason, however, for their use exists in a 
prejudice, entertained by every Persian, against 
inhabiting the house in which his parents have died. 
This prejudice is not counterbalanced by the ties of 
family affection, which in polygamous countries are 
much less strong than with us, and the consequence is 
that an incoming heir, whenever he can afford to do 
so, abandons the paternal mansion, and builds himself 
a new abode. A somewhat similar feeling must, I 
think, have animated the founders of the numerous 

128 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

dynasties, which have succeeded each other in the long 
cycle of Persian history, and caused each of them to 
abandon the capital of its predecessor, and set up its 
regal penates on a fresh site. Thus in ancient times, 
under the Kaianian, Parthian, and Sassanian dynasties, 
the metropolis of the empire was moved from Perse - 
polis to Pasargadge, and thence to Susa, and thus in 
modern ones the Soofee, Zend, and Kajar reigning 
families have successively chosen as their respective 
capitals Ispahan, Shiraz, and Tehran. The latter, 
however, owes its present distinction perhaps less to 
this feeling than to the fact of its being within a few 
days' march of the native districts of the Kajar Tribe, 
near Astrabad. For when, in 1788, Agar Mahomed 
Khan, the founder of the present dynasty, first got 
possession of the throne, his position was too pre- 
carious to admit of his fixing his court at a distance 
from his own clan. 

His choice has turned out a prudent one from 
another point of view. Kussia, as far as any one can 
see at present, is the only power which can cherish 
annexationist designs against Persia, and whenever 
attempts are made to put those designs into execution, 
they can be more advantageously resisted from 
Tehran than from any other point. Hence, too, the 
wild Turcomans, who infest the north-eastern frontiers 
of the kingdom, can be best held in check and their 
incursions best repelled. 

The capital stands on a vast plain, on which to the 
west and south there is nothing to intercept the view 

Scenery around Tehran — The Elburz Mountains. 129 

except the faint outline of some hills which rise from 
its uniform level, like islets from the ocean, far away 
on the borders of the Great Salt Desert. Looking 
northwards from its walls, the Elburz mountains are 
seen raising, from advanced .spurs some three or four 
miles off, their abrupt and picturesque heads to a 
height of 10,000 feet, and stretching out eastwards 
their massive limbs in gradual and jagged descent to 
the plain, whilst their loftiest peak, Demavend, its 
base hidden by intermediate ranges, and distant about 
fifty miles, towers high over all, 20,000 feet and more, 
into the sky. 

Amidst natural scenery of these proportions, the 
most imposing architecture would lose half its effect ; 
Tehran, which can hardly be said to contain any 
architectural building at all, is simply insignificant. 
It is built in the form of an irregular square, each 
side of which measures about an English mile, and is 
enclosed by a deep dry ditch and a thick mud wall, 
flanked at intervals with semicircular projections, and 
pierced by gates which are always guarded, and closed 
one hour after sunset. Outside the walls there are 
suburbs of considerable extent, several large caravan- 
saries, and many enclosed gardens. Inside, the principal 
object is the Ark or Royal Palace, which occupies a 
large space of ground adjoining the northern wall, 
and is completely cut off from the rest of the town by 
its own circle of bulwarks. At all its issues sentinels 
keep guard, and at night no one can traverse 
the streets which skirt it without the password. 


130 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

High walls impede all view of the interior; which 
will be described when we go to see the Shah. 

There is little to be said about other buildings. 
The mosques, into which no Christian is allowed to 
enter, are all small, and, with the exception of one or 
two partially cased with coloured tiles, are all of sombre 
sun-dried brick ; the baths, which play such a part in 
Oriental life, are of the same material and equally 
unworthy of notice. Some of the bazaars are spacious 
and lofty, especially those in the neighbourhood of 
the Palace, and, besides containing the best shops, 
are the principal thoroughfares of the city. As to the 
streets, if such they can be called, only three or four 
of them are broad and even enough to allow of the 
passage of wheeled vehicles ; all the others run between 
blank brown walls, are very narrow, ill paved, or not 
paved at all, and full of holes and pitfalls ; they are 
dusty in dry weather, muddy in wet, and filthy at all 
times. One of the best houses is that built by the 
Eussian Government for its representative ; it is of 
stone and kiln-dried bricks. The premises of the 
English Legation * were, at the time of which I am 
speaking, in a half ruinous state ; but they had attached 
to them a large garden planted with huge cypresses 
and plane-trees, which somewhat compensated for 
their internal discomfort. 

Persian houses, though varying in size according 

* Parliament has since voted a large sum for the construction of 
a new Mission House, not before it was wanted, and H.M.'s Legation 
will soon be properly lodged. 

Buildings of Tehran — A Persian House. 131 

to the means of their occupants, are generally built on 
pretty much the same plan : a description of my own 
dwelling during the winter months of my residence at 
Tehran will suffice to give a fair idea of their internal 
arrangement. Entering from a narrow lane, through 
a doorway just large enough for the passage of one 
person, a small corridor leads into an open paved 
court some forty yards square, in the centre of which 
is an oblong tank of water, surrounded with a border 
of garden soil for shrubs and plants at the proper 
season. Blank walls, rising high enough above the 
flat roofs to prevent my inquisitive eyes from invading 
the privacy of my neighbours, enclose two sides of the 
court ; on the others, and vis-a-vis, are two buildings, 
each consisting of a large centre saloon and two 
smaller rooms on the ground-floor, and a bala-khaneh 
(hence our word balcony) or upper chamber. The 
windows of the saloons, filled with diminutive panes of 
stained glass, descend from the roof to the floor, and 
are furnished with an awning to keep out the sun; 
those of the other rooms are small, and all, as well 
as the doors, open on the court. An uncovered flight 
of very steep steps leads up to the flat roof of each 
building — always an agreeable place at dawn and sunset, 
and much used by Persians for prayer — and to the upper 

This division of a house into two separate com- 
partments, " biroon " and " anderoon," literally " out- 
side " and " inside," is necessitated by polygamy. 
In the former are lodged all the males of the house- 

132 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

hold, and there the master transacts his business, 
receives his visitors, &c. The latter is exclusively 
reserved for his harem ; which is his sanctum sanc- 
torum, and is inviolable, even to royalty. 

The Mahometan law, as is well known, limits the 
number of a man's wives to four, but allows him as 
many concubines and slaves as he likes ; and love, 
as understood in the East, being still one of the great 
ruling passions amongst Persians, they are as much 
addicted to its pleasures as ever, and, when they 
can afford it, fully avail themselves of the privileges 
accorded to them by their religion. There are, how- 
ever, comparatively few who can do so, and thus it may 
be said of polygamy, as well as, to a certain extent, of 
monogamy, that it's all a question of money. If such 
be the case, it stands to reason that most Mahometans 
have only one wife. As to female slaves, I have only 
heard of their existence, and there can be but few in 
the country at present. Males are still, it would 
seem, smuggled into the southern provinces, for I have 
seen several eunuchs whose features bore unmis- 
takable traces of their African origin. 

Tehran contains, as far as can be ascertained, about 
100,000 inhabitants, more than nine-tenths of whom 
are Persians, and the rest Armenians, Jews, Afghans, 
and Europeans. The latter formed a very small com- 
munity in 1866, consisting only of the members of the 
English, French, and Russian Legations, of a couple 
of officers and some men of the Royal Engineers 
employed in superintending the telegraph, one 

Inhabitants of Tehran— Telegraphic Service. 133 

Austrian and three Italian officers, a French doctor 
and two English civil engineers in the Shah's service, 
and the representatives of three or four commercial 
houses : in all, about fifty persons. Scattered about 
in different parts of the country, there may have been 
a hundred more Europeans. 

The entire staff of Koyal Engineers then consisted 
of fifty men, principally sergeants and corporals, four 
officers and two medical men ; in the society of the 
latter were passed my most agreeable hours, to their 
knowledge of the country arjd people I am much in- 
debted, and their hospitality and kindness I shall never 
forget. Their duties are of a very arduous nature, 
comprising the maintenance in working order of the 
telegraph wires from the Caucasian frontier to Tehran, 
from thence to Bushire, and again from Tehran to the 
Turkish frontier in the direction of Baghdad, the trans- 
mission along them of European and Indian messages, 
and the settlement of accounts : a very knotty question 
with Persians. The description of my ride from 
Tabreez will give some idea of what these men are 
frequently exposed to; for interruptions in communica- 
tion, caused by atmospherical influences, storms, light- 
ning, snow, &c. — but more frequently by the mischievous 
wantonness of the numerous pilgrims who are con- 
stantly traversing the country on their way to the 
shrines, or for the purpose of transporting their dead 
relations to Kerbelah, Meshed and Koom — are of 
common occurrence, and as soon as they are signalled, 
away some one must gallop to repair them. I don't 

134 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

know what may be the opinion of their employers as 
to the manner in which they have discharged these 
duties, but this I can vouch for — the Koyal Engineers 
are regarded with feelings of the highest respect and 
esteem by all classes of society with which they have 
come in contact, and they have certainly enhanced the 
prestige of the English name in Persia. 

The Shah is a frequent visitor at the Telegraph 
Office, which is close to the Palace, and exceedingly 
fond of conversing directly through the wires with the 
governors of the provinces through which they pass. 
As the day approaches for the payment of their annual 
tribute, the governors have an uneasy time of it, and 
often, no doubt, curse this invention of the " Christian 
dogs ; " for then his Majesty's visits are redoubled, and 
questions as to the amount of tribute and the time of 
its arrival become the burden of his messages. The 
Persian language is naturally deficient in words descrip- 
tive of most of our late inventions, and it is consequently 
.difficult to make even educated men understand the 
theory and working of the telegraph. Thus, on one 
occasion, much of the time of one of our officers was 
occupied during several weeks in attempting to 
enlighten the mind of a provincial governor, who had 
got it into his head that the wires were hollow tubes, 
and that messages were transmitted through them, as 
in the pneumatic post. In vain was the whole appa- 
ratus shown to his highness, in vain were all its parts 
explained and re-explained ; he stuck to his idea ; and 
it was only by the suggestion of the following simile 


Persian Ideas of Modern Inventions. 135 

that he was, at last, induced to relinquish it and 
declare himself satisfied : " Imagine," said the officer, 
" a dog whose tail is here at Tehran, and his muzzle 
in London ; tread on his tail here and he will bark 
there." Similar difficulties were experienced, it seems, 
in conveying to the mind of Ferrukh Khan a correct 
idea of the machinery of the steamer which was to 
convey him from Trebizonde on his mission to the 
courts of Paris and London ; for when, on going on 
board, he was told that the machine was of 500-horse 
power, his face beamed with pleasure at the prospect 
of seeing so many horses, and he at once asked 
permission to visit the stables ! 

It did not take me long to establish myself in my 
Persian house. Where every one seems to lead a 
sort of camp life, it is useless to indulge one's 
European .ideas as to the necessity of furniture : it is, 
indeed, an impossibility where every one sits, eats, 
and sleeps on the floor, and uses his knee as his 
writing-table. The bazaars did, however, manage to 
supply me with a few chairs and tables ; carpets, 
divans, and cushions did the rest. My household 
consisted of a peeshkedmet or body servant, Hassan 
Beg by name, who was much addicted to adorning his 
person with gold and shawl embroidery, of three 
farrashes or sweepers, and a groom and helper, to look 
after the four horses which were deemed necessary for 
my service. This may seem rather an extravagant 
establishment for a single man, but if you live at Home 
you must do as the Romans, and in Persia custom 

136 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

forbids a European official to stir from his house, either 
on foot or on horseback, without two attendants at least ; 
not so much by way of protection as to show and clear 
the road. Servants, moreover, are not expensive : their 
wages average about twenty-five shillings a month, and 
the keep of a horse is about the same. In other respects, 
living is decidedly cheap, if one can accommodate one's 
taste to the products of the country. 

As to food, the markets in most towns are generally 
well supplied with mutton, lamb, fowls, rice, &c. ; beef 
is rarer; fruit, eggs, chickens, and bread can be had 
everywhere. The other essential of life — drink — is a 
more difficult question. Water throughout the country 
is generally bad, being often so impregnated with nitre 
that neither man nor beast can touch it except in 
the direst straits. Wine and spirits are not always 
to be had. They are both much appreciated by 
many of the higher classes, more for their intoxicating 
than their cheering effects, but can only be indulged 
in secretly; and no Mussulman can disregard the 
precepts of the Koran to the extent of himself becoming 
a vendor or maker of either. The liquor- trade is con- 
sequently in the hands of Armenians and Jews, and, 
being illicit, is entirely dependent on the venal con- 
nivance of the local authorities. Even when thus 
winked at for a consideration, it must always be a 
precarious business, for, though a governor may have 
no religious scruples about its permission — nay, may 
derive a considerable income therefrom, and himself 
be a hard drinker — he is sometimes obliged to yield to 

Water and Alcoholic Drinks — Skating in Tehran. 137 

the remonstrances of mollahs and priests, and put a 
stop to a traffic which threatens to become a public 
scandal, by destroying the contents of the wine-shops. 
More frequently, however, when a clerical storm is im- 
pending, he will smooth down matters by imposing a 
good round fine on the vendors, and thus extract from 
his goose another golden egg without endangering his 
future harvest. The best native wines are those of 
Hamadan — which are light and agreeable, somewhat 
resembling the cheaper qualities of Rhine wine — and 
Shiraz ; which last is full-bodied and powerful, with a 
strong astringent taste : they are to be had on the spot 
for sixpence a bottle. As to wines introduced from 
Europe, they are only to be found, I think, in Tehran, 
and as they generally hail from Cette, and are sold 
at about double the price of the purest Bordeaux, I 
cannot recommend them. English beer and porter 
may be had, but only at four shillings per bottle. 

The elevation of Tehran, 3,300 feet above the sea, 
and its proximity to the Elburz mountains, render its 
short winter exceedingly severe. The cold weather 
lasted some days after my arrival, and skating on 
yakchals — long shallow ponds, excavated for the pur- 
pose of procuring a supply of ice, and, to this end, 
completely protected from the sun's rays by high mud 
walls — was still the amusement of the Europeans. A 
fortnight previously, the Shah, who was desirous of 
witnessing their performances, had been graciously 
pleased to invite the skaters to breakfast and a display 
of their skill at one of his country palaces, Kasr- 

138 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

Kajar, the castle of the Kajars, which Persians delight 
to compare with Windsor. It is a large lofty building, 
situated on a commanding hill about three miles to 
the north of the town, and, from a distance, has an 
imposing effect, which is much increased by a series 
of terraces connecting it with some spacious gardens. 
On the highest of these terraces, and in front of the 
castle — which, I need hardly say, on near approach, 
bears about as much resemblance to Windsor as a 
blank mud-wall does to a Gothic cathedral facade — is 
a large tank, on which the skating took place. 

His Majesty, surrounded by his Court and some of 
his Ministers, stately long-bearded gentlemen in flowing 
robes and tall hats, took much interest in it, and 
highly applauded the performances of the two English 
engineers in his service. After a time, however, his 
interest flagged, and urged no doubt by the espieglerie 
inherent in the character of all Persians, he expressed 
a wish to see his courtiers try their feet on the ice. 
Now stateliness and dignity of movement have, by 
education, become an Oriental's second nature. Hence 
it is that, of all our European customs and accomplish- 
ments, none astonishes him more than dancing. At 
the sight of a number of ladies and gentlemen whirling 
about in a ball-room — or, as he would put it, giving 
themselves infinite trouble for a ridiculous result — his 
first impression is that they are mad, his second that 
they are foolish. For, dancing being, according to 
his ideas, a pleasure to be seen, he so little 
understands the charms it has for the dancers that, 

The Shall s Fondness for Practical Jokes. 130 

if called upon to give expression to his thoughts on 
the subject, he would probably do so by asking them, 
"Why don't you pay people to dance for you?" 
Skating is, I suppose, regarded much in the same 
light, and the dignitaries of the Court cast deprecating 
looks at their Sovereign when his wish was made 
known to them. But the more reluctance they showed, 
the more the idea seemed to tickle his Majesty, and 
the more he insisted ; so the skates were attached 
to their feet, and they were launched on the ice. I 
refrain from attempting a description of the scene that 
ensued ; its counterpart might perhaps be imagined 
by conceiving several Lord Chancellors in their state 
robes taking their first skating lesson on Virginia 

Practical jokes of this nature are, it would seem, 
not unfrequently indulged in at the Persian Court. 
Not long after this incident, the Shah took such 
a fancy to a portable india-rubber boat, that its owner, 
one of our officers, who had got it out from England 
with a view to exploring some of the rivers, begged, 
and of course obtained, permission to present it to 
him. It was at once transported to the Palace, 
and, when inflated, my friend had there the honour 
of paddling royalty about on one of the tanks. The 
amusement pleased his Majesty, and he took to paddling 
himself; the courtiers followed suit, and eventually the 
King caused a throne to be erected near the tank, in 
order that he might at his ease watch their progress 
in this new accomplishment. It was probably too 

140 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

slow to afford him satisfaction, for one day he 
announced that he should like to see how many 
persons his boat was capable of carrying. Three could 
sit comfortably in it, but there was room for a dozen, 
and accordingly a dozen A.D.C.'s and Chamberlains, in 
their handsome shawl dresses and gold brocade, stepped 
in. Meanwhile, some one in the royal confidence 
had secretly opened the valves ; the boat was shoved 
off towards the middle of the tank, and, as the air 
escaped, gradually sank lower and lower, and finally 
disappeared with its gorgeous and unsuspecting freight 
in the water. For a moment there was nothing visible 
on the surface of the tank but lambswool hats and 
linen skull-caps : for a moment, too, there was silence. 
Then a dozen shaven heads were seen wagging their 
tufts and side-locks, and a dozen mouths and noses 
were heard puffing, blowing, and snorting as their 
owners struggled slowly to the side. The Shah 
laughed long and loudly, and was so much pleased 
with the success of his stratagem that, when his victims 
emerged, all dripping and draggled from their bath, 
and stood shivering and crest-fallen before him, he 
deigned to inquire, " What news of the fish?" 
Persians can take a joke, as it is meant ; and, though 
the courtiers no doubt wished the boat and its donor 
a speedy descent to a warmer climate, I daresay they 
all ultimately joined in their sovereign's laughter. 

When the snow had disappeared, and the mud 
which it had left behind it began to dry up, I began 
to ride about a good deal, and one morning went out 

Parade of Garrison — Persian Army. 141 

to see the garrison on parade. Four regiments of 
infantry, each about 600 men strong, were assembled 
on the plain about a quarter of a mile from the town — 
hardy, wiry-looking men, but bearing evident marks 
of ill-treatment and scanty rations. Their uniform was 
semi-European — i.e. they had all of them European- 
cut coats (the rank and file dark blue, the pioneers 
red) and cross-belts ; the rest of their costume was 
decidedly Persian, consisting of black lambswool caps, 
wide white trousers, and shoes of untanned hide. They 
were armed with muskets, a good many of them flint- 
locks, which about the time of the battle of Waterloo 
were probably in the hands of the French or the Allies, 
and have since then been slowly driven eastwards by 
the flood of new inventions. The Italian officers, who 
commanded, were in plain clothes, and, instead of 
swords, carried stout sticks, which they used both 
frequently and mercilessly on the heads and shoulders 
of their men, as they put them through some of the 
simplest manoeuvres, such as marching in line and 
column, forming in hollow squares, &c. On inquiry 
I was told that this, to me, novel proceeding on the 
part of commissioned officers, was the only means of 
impressing the science of military tactics on the minds 
of the troops. When parade was over, a band of 
music, the only one in the kingdom furnished with 
European instruments, struck up a terrible discord, 
and the garrison returned to barracks. 

While riding home, my friend the Austrian officer 
gave me a good deal of promiscuous information about 

142 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

the Persian army. Up to the commencement of the 
present century irregular troops, militia and cavalry, 
furnished by the different tribes and commanded by 
their chiefs, sufficed to maintain order and repel the 
inroads of the Turcomans, the only foes Persia had 
then to fear; but about 1820, the formation of a 
regular army in Turkey, the gradual approach of 
Russia, and the frequent struggles which ensued on 
the death of the sovereign between rival pretenders to 
the throne, induced Abbas Mirza, the eldest son of the 
then reigning monarch, Futteh Ali Shah, to attempt 
the organization of a regular standing army. For this 
purpose he obtained the services of several English 
officers for a number of years, and though it is long 
since they all left the country, what remains of 
organization is their work. The army at present con- 
sists of ninety regiments of the line, each regiment 
being 800 strong; of three squadrons of regular 
cavalry and 200 camel artillerymen, forming the Shah's 
body-guard ; 5,000 artillerymen ; and 30,000 irregular 
cavalry, which are only called out in cases of emer- 
gency. The infantry is armed chiefly with English 
percussion muskets, and one-half of it is always on 
furlough. There are barracks, if four bare walls and 
a roof can be so termed, in the capital and principal 
towns, but no hospitals; nor is there any code of 
punishments, these matters being left entirely to the 
discretion of the commanding officer. The bastinado, 
generally on the soles of the feet, abscission of ears, 
noses and hands, strangulation and decapitation, are 

Persian Soldiers and their Officers. 143 

the usual penalties inflicted. On a march, asses are 
the means of transport employed, one of these animals 
being allotted to three soldiers. 

There is no fixed age for entrance into the army, 
and boys of fifteen are often seen in the ranks by the 
side of greybeards ; the men are enlisted for life, but 
can leave the service on producing a substitute. 
As a rule, the commander of each regiment is the 
chief of the tribe from which it is raised and re- 
cruited : he consequently has the interests of his 
clan much more at heart than those of the army or 
the Shah, and it thus frequently happens that he is 
openly hostile to the Government. To obtain his 
command he must give bribes to the amount of 200/. 
or 300/., which he reimburses to himself with interest 
by the sale of the subordinate commands in his regi- 
ment, and by retaining and investing at usurious 
interest the pay of his men. Under this, the worst of 
all purchase systems, merit is seldom — or, rather, never 
— rewarded ; hence efficiency cannot be looked for in 
any rank. As to army administration, no such thing 
is known ; and contracts for clothing and commissariat 
are given to the highest bidder. The servants of the 
Persian crown, military as well as civil, receive their 
salaries at the end of each year's service ; to obtain a 
portion of them earlier, they must submit to consider- 
able deductions in the way of discount. The Paymaster 
of the Forces must therefore have a very lucrative post: 
if he discounts, his profits must be large ; if not called 
on to do so, they are perhaps still larger, as in a 

144 Journey through Caucasus and Persia. 

country where money is very scarce, he can always 
invest the sums in his hands for very high interest. 

Altogether, the lot of the Persian soldier is a very 
hard one : he is fleeced in every direction ; and it is only 
the respect which he bears to his commanding officer, as 
chief of his tribe, which keeps him from revolt or deser- 
tion. His clothing reaches him in scanty proportions, 
he is mulcted of his pay, and is obliged to seek his 
livelihood when off duty as best he can. Thus in the 
capital all the butchery is done by soldiers ; and they 
are continually to be seen where the hardest work is 
going on, staggering through the bazaars under huge 
loads, digging watercourses, or building walls. But in 
spite of all this, I have generally found them willing 
and obedient, sober and enduring, and capable of 
gratitude — that rarest of feelings in the East — for the 
smallest kindness; if properly cared for, they would, 
no doubt, make excellent troops. In the capital they 
are fairly equipped and armed, and a guard of honour 
of ten or twelve men is furnished from their ranks 
to each of the foreign Legations. The men then receive 
some additional pay (from the Legations, of course), 
as they have to mount guard day and night at the gates 
and escort the head of the Mission in his walks. In 
the provinces their uniforms are often in rags, and I 
once witnessed the eccentric spectacle of a sentinel on 
duty shouldering a stockless musket. 

Towards the end of February hunting and hawking 
became our amusements. The English Minister,* who 

* The late Charles Alison, Esq., C.B. 

Hawking and Hunting in Persia. 145 

was a most liberal patron of these sports, supplied the 
pack and hawks, as well as a capital breakfast ; so the 
meet generally took place at 8 a.m. in front of his 
house. We formed a goodly cavalcade, consisting of 
ten or twelve Europeans, each accompanied by a couple 
of mounted servants, the huntsmen and falconers ; and 
after threading our way, in Indian file, through the 
narrow streets and bazaars, and getting clear of the 
walls and suburbs, we spread ourselves over the ground, 
as do the beaters at an English coursing meeting. 
Our best coverts for hares and foxes were to the south 
of the town, on a large tract of the cultivated part 
of the plain, which, though from a distance appa- 
rently flat, is a good deal cut up by the open shafts of 
khanats or subterranean conduits, watercourses, deep 
and abrupt chasms and gullies only visible when one 
is within a few yards of them, and rotten ground 
caused by the burrowings of the jerboa, a large 
species of rat, which abounds throughout the country, 
and is the pest of the husbandman at seed-time. 
The huntsmen, with their hooded hawks on their 
wrists, or holding the pack in leash, rode a little 
in front of the line of sportsmen until a find was 
announced, when either the one or the other was let 
loose in pursuit of the quarry. The hawk swooped 
down on its prey, and, if successful, alighted on its head 
and held it pinned to the ground till the huntsman 
came up. We generally found, however, that if he 
failed in his first flight he seldom attempted a second 
one, and that hawking was more a spectacle to be 


146 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

looked at than a sport full of active excitement. It 
was otherwise with the pack, composed of several 
couples of Persian greyhounds. They have feathered 
ears and tails, and are much slower than our English 
ones. Puss, too, is more timid in Persia than with 
us, and contrives to get more law, so we had 
frequent runs of three and four miles, in which the 
whole field, servants and all, took part, and which, 
from the nature of the ground and the emulation 
existing between Persians and Europeans, were often 
most exciting. If a kill took place, the huntsman 
jumped from his horse and fulfilled the Prophet's 
orders relative to the slaughtering of animals destined 
for the table by cutting the hare's throat ; but we were 
often baulked of our prey, for Persian hares are very 
fond of running to earth, and were often able to 
indulge this taste before we could catch them. After a 
couple of runs a halt was called, and we breakfasted 
by the side of a water-course or under the trees of 
an enclosed orchard, continuing our sport afterwards 
till late in the afternoon. 

Pure Arab horses are only found in the stables of 
the wealthiest Persians. They are very expensive, and 
require much care during the severe winter season. 
Persian-bred horses are much better adapted to the 
climate. They have a good deal of Arab blood, are 
very hardy, and have plenty of pluck and courage. An 
average horse of this breed costs about 20/. Turcoman 
horses, larger and stronger in every way than the above, 
are highly esteemed for their staying powers, which 

Persian Horses and Horsemanship. *147 

are so great that journeys of 500 or 600 miles are some- 
times performed on them in five or six days. They 
have no manes, and this peculiarity, the result of being 
from their youth covered up to their ears with heavy 
clothing, considerably detracts from their appearance. 
All Persians are justly proud of their riding. 
From childhood they are accustomed to the saddle, 
and their belief in fatalism no doubt conduces to 
render them fearless in it. They are as bold and 
daring horsemen as I have seen, and delight in show- 
ing off their dexterity. One of their great amuse- 
ments is shooting from horseback, and they show 
wonderful skill in thus bringing down ground game at 
full gallop. This is the more remarkable, as they have 
no idea of shooting at a bird on the wing — indeed, 
never attempt it, but wait until they can get a shot on 
the ground. They are excessively fond of their horses, 
and though unsparing of their powers in the field, take 
much care of them in the stable ; where, strange to 
say, a pig is often kept for their protection, on the sup- 
position that should an evil spirit pass the threshold 
it will take up its quarters in the soul of a beast 
so loathsome to the nostrils of a true son of the 
Prophet, and leave the horses unmolested. Much 
faith is, likewise, laid in the efficacy of charms, and 
the favourite animal of the stable has generally a 
turquoise, which is held to bring luck, strung to his 
tail. Oats and hay being almost unknown, the horses 
are fed on barley and chopped straw, and a course of 
green food in the spring. 

148 Jownty through the Caucasus and Persia. 


Rhe — The Guebees — Religion of Zoroaster — The Ramazan 
and Bairam — Bazaars — Persian Women — New Year's Day — 
The Shah — His Palace — Reception of the Diplomatic 
Body and Grand Salaam — A Debt of Honour. 

On one of our hunting excursions we breakfasted 
amongst the ruins of Khe, which are about five miles 
south-east of the town, under a prolonged spur of the 
Elburz. Of this place, the linages of the Apocrypha — 
the last halting-place of Alexander the Great in his 
pursuit of Darius — the capital of the proud Arsacidae — 
the city which, if we are to believe ancient writers, 
once rivalled Babylon and Nineveh in size and luxury, 
and was hence called the market and spouse of the 
world — there remain but two lofty towers rising soli- 
tarily out of acres of unshapely masses of crumbling 
brick ruins, and the half- effaced lineaments of a 
colossal bas-relief. The towers are both circular, and 
round the top of each there runs a broad frieze of 
Cunc inscriptions executed in brick. The base of one 
of them is of stone. The bas-relief is sculptured on 
the smoothed surface of a rock, at the foot of which 
there is now a spring and some weeping willows — a 

Ruins of Rhe — Guebres Cemetery. 149 

romantic spot for our meal. The sculpture represents 
a horseman in full charge, with couched spear, wearing 
long flowing robes and a globular crown. It is said 
to be of Sassanian origin, and may therefore possibly 
be 1600 years old. 

To the north of these ruins is a wild, secluded, 
desert valley, shut in on all sides, except towards Khe, 
by high ridges of barren rock, and thither we proceeded 
after breakfast in search of game. The afternoon 
turned out a blank, however, and we were about to 
retrace our steps homewards, when a proposal was 
made by one of the party to ride up a steep hill- side 
and examine a low round tower, perched high amongst 
some desolate crags ; we had previously noticed it, 
and now learnt that this was the cemetery of 
the Guebres. After a rough climb we reached the 
foot of a circular building about forty feet high and 
sixty in diameter, having neither doors nor windows. 
Looking down from a neighbouring elevation, we 
saw that on the top there was a platform of open iron 
grating, whereon lay exposed the body of a recently 
deceased disciple of Zoroaster and late gardener to 
the British Mission. There he was to lie until his 
bones had been denuded of their covering of flesh by 
the vultures, and fell through the grating to their last 
resting-place in the base of the tower. Such is the 
system of burial prescribed by the Guebre religion ; a 
sketch of which (taken from Parsee authors) , together 
with some remarks on its adherents, will occupy the 
time as we ride home. 

150 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

Considerable mystery envelops the origin and 
birth of the great Persian Lawgiver, and various are 
the theories and hypotheses which have been put 
forward by those who have written on the subject. 
The modern Parsees, however, seem to have arrived at 
the conclusion that Zerdusht, or Zoroaster, first saw 
the light at Khe, and that he flourished in the reign of 
Darius Hystaspes, in the sixth century before Christ. 
Prodigies and miracles were not wanting in connection 
with the appearance of the author of the new faith. 
Thus it is reported in Pehlvi works, compiled, it is 
supposed, by his disciples, that his father Poroshusp 
received a glass of wine from an angel ; and that 
thereupon his wife Doghdo conceived and bore the son 
destined to create a new era in Eastern history. The 
governor of the district, informed of the descent of the 
celestial messenger and his wine, and dreading, 
instinctively, the consequences of such a portentous 
event, sought to destroy the infant; who, it would 
appear, was only preserved from death by Divine 
agency. Many were his miraculous escapes from the 
machinations of those in authority ; until, in his 
fortieth year, he appeared at the court of Darius, and 
by a series of miracles convinced that monarch of the 
divinity of his mission and the excellency of his 
doctrines. It was then that he produced the sacred 
books — the Zendavesta — written in a language which 
is supposed to have prevailed in a great part of Persia 
some thirty or thirty-five centuries ago. The majority 
of these books — twenty- one in number — were probably 

Zoroaster and his Doctrines. 151 

burnt by Alexander in the great conflagration at 
Persepolis, or at the time of the Arab invasion, and 
one entire book — the Vendidad — and some scattered 
fragments of others alone remain extant. 

The new faith was soon accepted by the whole 
empire, and continued to be the religion of the 
country until the Mahometan conquest. The purity of 
Zoroaster's doctrines seems, however, to have been, in 
the course of time, more than once corrupted by 
superstitious additions. The Magi (hence the English 
word magic) engrafted on it, " Fire-worship." Mithra, 
the sun, became an object of actual worship, and 
during the five centuries which succeeded the sub- 
version of the Persian dynasty by Alexander, a 
certain species of idolatry had mingled itself with 
Zoroastrianism. At the expiration of this period 
(a.d. 226) arose Ardeshir Babegan, a religious 
enthusiast and founder of the Sassanian dynasty, and 
restored to the faith its primitive purity. In his reign 
the sacred books were collected and translated from 
the original Zend into Pehlvi, the current language of 
the country, and the fruits of this reformation seem to 
have lasted until the religion and monarchy of Persia 
were overthrown by the Arabs, a.d. 641. 

What was the religion of Zoroaster ? Now I think 
the Parsees, as we call the Guebres, must themselves 
be allowed to answer this question ; more especially as 
their answer has been endorsed by the most distin- 
guished European authors who have devoted their 
attention to the subject. 

152 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

Their religion, they say, is a simple form of 
monotheism, recognizing but one God, the creator, 
ruler, and preserver of the universe, without form, 
invisible, omnipotent, without beginning or end. He 
is above all, and to him every praise must be given 
for the blessings enjoyed in this world. He is an 
immense light, from which all glory, bounty, and 
goodness flow ; his mercies are as boundless as his 
being. In the government of this world he has 
allowed two principles to prevail : — Ormuzd, the 
principle of all good, the inspirer of purity of 
thought, word, and action ; Ahriman, the author 
of all evil, the cause of the temptation to which 
man succumbs, to be hated and combated by en- 
feebling, as far as possible, the tyranny which he 
is permitted to exercise for a time over mankind. 
The belief in these two principles is one of the 
distinguishing features of their faith, and it was 
symbolically represented in their sculptures; though 
this symbolism must not be confounded with idolatry, 
to which the spirit of the Zendavesta is wholly 

Prayer is one of the duties most strongly enjoined, 
because man, continually exposed to the assaults of 
Ahriman, stands in need of the succour which it 
procures. The Parsee priest prays for himself, and 
for all his brethren ; he unites his prayers to those of 
all the Parsees, of all the souls acceptable to Ormuzd 
which have ever existed or shall exist until the resur- 
rection. The whole fabric of their sacred works is 

Eeligio n o f t he 1 } a rsees . 153 

built upon three injunctions, termed in the Avesta, 
Homute, Hookte, and Varuste, purity of speech, 
purity of action, and purity of thought. Truth is 
the basis of all excellence ; virtue alone is happiness 
in this world ; its path is the path of peace. Good 
actions are the most acceptable sacrifices to God. 
Industry is a guard to innocence and a bar to tempta- 
tion. Hospitality, philanthropy, and benevolence are 
strongly inculcated. Untruth is the worst of sins ; 
wickedness is a garment of shame ; idleness, the 
parent of want. At the resurrection, God will judge 
mankind : the good will be rewarded in Paradise for 
their good actions, whilst the wicked will undergo 
punishment for their misdeeds in a place of torture. 

The Parsees maintain that the worship or adoration 
of any other object than God is blasphemy, and 
was so considered by Zoroaster, and they therefore 
strongly protest against the term " Fire-worshippers," 
which is so generally applied to them. Fire, it is 
true, is kept constantly burning on the altars of their 
temples ; all public and private prayers are offered up 
before it, and it is a sin to pollute or extinguish it 
wherever found. But their veneration for this element 
is not worship. Light is the truest symbol of the 
great Governor of the Universe ; the sun, the most 
perfect fire, produces the most perfect light ; before it 
and before fire, He must be worshipped, being the 
cause of light. The sun is the fairest creation of 
God, and the sacred fire is a perpetual monitor, 
ever warning them to aspire to the purity symbolized 

154 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. « 

by its pure flame. " My light," said God to Zoro- 
aster, "is under all that shines." 

This is what the modern Parsees tell us of the 
origin and purity of their religion. It is, however, 
more than probable that Zoroaster was not its founder, 
but rather the reformer of a much older faith, which 
he found tainted with idolatry and superstition; and 
which, no doubt, subsequently to his reformation, 
frequently relapsed into their practice. But though 
it has thus often fallen from its pristine purity, its 
precepts have always retained much that is admirable 
and sublime, and I therefore hope that no apology 
is necessary for the • following quotations from the 
Revelation of Ardai Vera/ — a code of morality drawn 
up for the use of the people at the time of the 
reformation of Ardeshir Babegan, and purporting to 
be an account of what was said to the author in a 
vision, in which he was transported into the other 

"Recollect, Ardai Yeraf," said the angel, 
' ' that your body will return to dust, but that your 
soul, if rich in good works, will mount to immor- 
tality and partake of the happiness you have here 
witnessed. Take less care of your body and more. of 
your soul ; the pains and aches of the body are easily 
cured, but who can minister to the diseases of the 
soul ? When you set out on a journey in the lower 
world, you provide yourselves with money, clothes, 
and provisions; but what do you provide yourselves 
with for your last journey of the soul from the lower 

" BevcUition of Ardai Vera/." 155 

to the upper world ? Hear, and I will tell you what 
is requisite. In the first place, the friend who will 
assist you is God ; but to attain His friendship you 
must walk in His ways, and place in Him the firmest 
reliance. The provisions must be faith, hope, and the 
remembrance of your good works. The body, 
Ardai Veraf, may be likened to a horse, and the soul 
to its rider. Even in the world, the multitude would 
sneer at a man who took more care of his horse than 
of himself; for this reason, a man ought to take more 
care of his soul than of his body. God requires only 
two things from the sons of men : that they should 
not sin, and that they should be grateful for the bless- 
ings He continually bestows on them. 

" Let not men be taught to set their hearts on the 
pleasures and vanities of life, as nothing can be 
carried away with them. In youth, and in the prime 
of manhood, when blessed with health and vigour, 
you suppose that your strength will never fail ; that 
your riches, your lands, your houses, and your horses 
will remain for ever; that your gardens will be always 
green and your vineyards fruitful ; but, Ardai 
Veraf! teach them not to think so, — teach them the 
dangers of such a way of thinking. All, all will pass 
away as a dream. The flowers fade, and give lessons 
unto man that he is unwilling to profit by. Yea, the 
world itself will pass away, and nothing will remain 
but God." 

The remote town of Yezd is now the head- 
quarters of the Guebres in Persia. In and around 

156 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

it there are still 7,000 or 8,000 of them. At Kerman 
there are about 1,000, and a few families are located 
at Shiraz, Cashan, and Tehran. They are every- 
where subjected to much persecution at the hands 
of the Mahometans. They are not allowed to 
repair their long-ruined temples, to pray or celebrate 
in public their religious rites. As they are pro- 
hibited from having schools of their own, and no 
Mussulman would condescend to teach their children, 
they are plunged in the grossest ignorance. They 
cannot hold landed property, and prolong their 
wretched existence by hiring themselves out as 
agricultural labourers ; the hardness of their fate may 
be imagined from the fact that no Guebre is per- 
mitted to appear mounted on a quadruped, an ass 
being considered too great a luxury for him. Under 
these circumstances their number is fast decreasing, 
and they would, probably, all at once emigrate to 
India, if they were not prevented from doing so by 
the Persian authorities and their own poverty. Many 
are assisted out of the country by the Parsee mer- 
chants of Bombay. All Persian Guebres are either 
agriculturists or gardeners, perhaps because amongst 
the good works which Zoroaster recommended as 
entitling to future rewards was the planting of trees, 
a recommendation which goes far to prove that Persia 
was always a comparatively treeless country. 

On arriving at home this same evening, we found 
the town in a state of great excitement. The streets 
were crowded with men, women, and children ; there 

The Guebres — Fast of the Ramazan. 157 

was shouting and screaming in every note, from bass 
to highest tenor ; guns were being fired off and drums 
beaten, and from the housetops the praises of Allah 
were being sung. The feast of the Bairarn had begun, 
putting an end to the thirty days' fast of the Ramazan, 
and preparations were being made to celebrate it by 
junketing and banquets which were to last late into 
the night. This fast of the Ramazan is very strictly 
observed : from sunrise to sunset neither food nor drink 
must enter the Mussulman's mouth, not a whiff of his 
beloved Kalian can he inhale. When it falls in the 
summer months it causes a great deal of suffering, and, 
in general, at whatever time of year it may occur, 
completely upsets the ordinary coarse of life. Night 
is turned into day. The rich and those who have 
little to do pass the weary hours of abstention from 
worldly comforts in prayer and sleep ; but the poor, 
who must work while there is light, are obliged to 
devote a portion of the night to the nourishment of 
their bodies — thus depriving themselves of sleep — and 
yet work during the day to obtain the means of doing 
so. Towards the end of the month they contract 
a hungry, half-famished look, business of all sorts 
comes near to a standstill, and life in general verges 
on a state of coma. The day had been a long one, 
but, according to my practice, I took my usual stroll 
at sunset in the garden of the Legation, and there 
found the Guebre gardeners prostrate before the 
setting orb, and amidst their prayers and ejaculations, 
ever and anon placing their hands — as if to assure 

158 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

themselves of its presence — on the mystic girdle which 
must never leave them from manhood till death. 

The best bazaars at Tehran are some twenty feet 
broad and thirty high, arched over with the favourite 
Persian arch, something between an ogive and a 
horseshoe. Some of them are a quarter of a mile 
long, and open, at intervals, into large courts ; 
caravansaries and minor bazaars intersecting them 
at right angles. On each side are the shops with 
their raised counters, on which the owners sit cross- 
legged amongst their goods. As a rule, each par- 
ticular branch of trade has its own quarter, though 
vendors of provisions and smoke, as well as barbers, 
establish themselves wherever they find the best 
market and most customers. Bazaars are the stages 
on which public life in the East is concentrated, and 
the favourite resorts of all classes of society. They 
are the centres of all business, news, and gossip, 
and during the day are ever crowded with men, 
women, and beasts. Camels, mules, and asses are 
continually passing and repassing with their loads ; 
great men on horseback with their scores of servants, 
mollahs on their milk-white donkeys, and ladies on 
their ambling mules and followed by their guardians, 
are constantly seen threading their way through the 
dense crowds of foot-passengers. 

Women never lose an opportunity of visiting 
the bazaars, in order to escape from the dulness of 
the Harem, to have a chat and a look at the outer 
world. Their out -door costume is one of the 

Bazaars at Tehran — Persian Women. 159 

ugliest imaginable, consisting of a dark blue mantle, 
covering head and shoulders and descending to the 
knees, a white veil sewn on to the mantle round 
the forehead and temples but loose below, and very 
wide trowsers, also dark blue, terminating in tight- 
fitting socks and slippers. Thus the feet are the only 
parts of a lady's figure of which one can form a 
definite notion. Very pretty feet they often are too, 
and, as ladies in Persia ride after the fashion of men, 
their owners have frequent opportunities of showing 
them to advantage : these they do not lose, and 
when circumstances permit it, the beauties sometimes 
go a little further and gratify the legitimate curiosity 
of a European by lifting their veils aside. On Thursday 
afternoons it is their habit to visit the graves of their 
deceased relatives, and especially those in the cemetery 
of Shah Abdul Azim, a village about four miles from 
the capital ; it is so called from the son of the seventh 
Imaum who there lies buried, and whose saintliness 
w T as so great in life that the precincts of his tomb are 
the favourite burial-grounds of Tehranese. On these 
days, therefore, the road thither becomes the fashion- 
able promenade, and the ladies contrive sometimes 
to keep their attendants at a distance behind them and 
to uncover for a moment charms which elsewhere are 
so jealously hidden from view. Some of those I saw, 
when riding to meet them on their return home, were 
decidedly pretty ; having oval faces, to which rouge 
was not always a stranger, dark brown or black eyes, 
thick eyebrows joining each other above the nose 

160 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

(often, I fear, by the aid of antimony) and cherry lips. 
They seemed smiling and happy for the moment, at 
least; conscious, no doubt, of the admiration they 
were exciting and the pleasure they were giving. 

The lot of Eastern women is a hard one. 4 s a ru ^ e 
they are totally uneducated, very few being taught even 
to read. Amongst the lower classes they must work 
and labour harder than their sisters in the West, with 
very few of the home comforts which solace the latter. 
In the higher ranks a woman is, perhaps, happy as 
long as she retains her beauty, almost her only means 
of keeping her lord's affections. When this begins to 
fade, she has recourse to all sorts of stratagems to 
protract for a brief space longer her waning empire. 
Charms and incantations are then much used ; she 
tries the effect of amulets supposed to have the power 
of softening the heart, or has recourse to more 
material measures by mixing in her husband's food 
ingredients having a similar reputation. Then comes 
a time when these no longer avail, and with it a 
jealousy which does not subside in resignation, but 
lasts till some new beauty has erased all traces of her 
influence, and premature ugliness destroys the last 
hope of regaining it. Henceforward, if she has 
children, attention and kindness may be shown her 
on their account; but if childless, she is generally 
considered and treated as a burden to the household. 
A lady's amusements consist in going often to the 
bath and paying visits to her friends. In the harem 
itself a good deal of time is devoted to dress, costumes 

Persian Women — A School. 161 

similar to those of our opera-dancers being most in 
vogue ; sweetmeat-making, frequently productive of 
very palatable results, and other household occupa- 
tions of a similar nature, fill up the rest of her day. 
She takes little exercise, and her figure is consequently 
seldom fully developed. On the whole, from what I 
have heard and seen, I should say that few Persian 
women can rival European beauties either in face 
or form. 

A Persian school is a very funny affair. The room 
is generally open to the street. Looking in, one sees 
a lot of boys squatted on their heels on the floor 
round a Mollah, all rocking themselves to and fro, and 
all repeating aloud the tasks they have to commit to 
memory. The result is a little babel of sounds, — a 
jumble, to those who understand the language, of 
verses from the Koran, drinking and love songs from 
Hafiz, and heroic lines from Firdousi. These are the 
books most studied ; and a Persian's education is 
pretty well complete when he can quote freely from 
them and talk a little Arabic. Hafiz is the favourite 
poet, and he is quoted and recited by all classes, as was 
Tasso some years ago by the gondoleers of Venice. 

Winter generally departs about the middle of 
February, but this year we had a fall of snow as late as 
the 2nd of March, and spring weather only set in a few 
days before the Persian New Year, the 21st of that 
month. Custom has reconciled us Europeans to the 
celebration of New Year's day at the gloomiest season of 
the year ; and, as we have always been told so, we must 


162 Journey tl trough the Caucasus and Persia. 

believe that our arrangement is the most convenient ; 
but there is much to be said in favour of the old 
calculation which Easterns, whose time is not money, 
have retained. At the vernal equinox all nature 
revives and celebrates a general resurrection ; springing 
grass, sprouting buds, milder breezes, and sunnier 
days, make us feel that we are entering on a new 
season ; spring creates new life around us and arouses 
new hope within us ; it is only in its verdant freshness 
that we fully and inwardly realize to ourselves that we 
have left the old year behind us and entered upon the 
new one. 

The Nowrooz, new day, is a great festival in Persia. 
The Shah then receives his annual tribute and pre- 
sents from his ministers and governors, and distributes 
dresses of honour amongst the punctual payers ; the 
army and civil service get their salaries, retainers and 
servants their suits of new clothes. Presents are 
exchanged on all sides, the houses are decked with 
flowers, the people wear their holiday attire, and on 
all sides there are signs of rejoicing and gladness. 

Early in the morning a score of the Shah's 
servants arrived at our Legation charged with his 
Majesty's compliments to the Minister, and bearing, 
in token thereof, several large wooden trays sparsely 
sprinkled with sweetmeats and little silken bags con- 
taining diminutive silver coins about the thickness and 
size of ordinary wafers. We soon afterwards started 
to present our congratulations to the monarch and 
witness the royal salaam. 

New Years Day in Persia. 163 

Four soldiers, carrying stout sticks in addition 
to their side-arms, headed our procession. Behind 
them strode the Ferrash Bashee, or head servant of the 
mission, and about three-score of ferrashes in their 
tall hats and new broad-cloth jubbahs ; the British 
Minister, in full uniform and mounted on a richly 
caparisoned horse, came next ; and behind him rode 
his secretaries, according to their rank, surrounded 
and followed by more ferrashes. Thus marshalled, 
we marched at a slow and stately pace through the 
bazaars, which were crowded with courtiers hurrying 
to the palace and a more than ordinary number of 
sight-seers. Our soldiers' sticks were in constant 
requisition to clear the way, and the assistance of the 
entire troop of ferrashes was necessary to procure 
space for our passage through the Maidan to the 
Palace gates. There we left our horses, and taking 
off our goloshes — the proper use of which, in official 
visits to his Majesty of Persia, is minutely defined in the 
stipulations of several solemn treaties — were ushered 
into an antechamber and received with much stateliness 
by the Grand Master of the Ceremonies, the Minister 
for Foreign Affairs, and some A. D. C.'s, all wearing 
gay-coloured vestments embroidered with gold brocade, 
jewelled belts and scabbards, rich Cashmere or Kerman 
shawls wound turban-fashion round their hats, and 
long scarlet stockings. The usual inquiries after our 
health having been made, and the answers thereto 
received with the usual number of Alhamdehillahs 
(praises to God), coffee and tea were served, smoke 

164 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia, 

was inhaled from jewel-headed kalians, and then, the 
whole diplomatic body having arrived, the Grand 
Master and Minister for Foreign Affairs called for their 
enamelled wands of office, and led the way to the 
presence of " The Centre of the Universe.' ' 

After slipping into our goloshes, we traversed a 
large court, to be mentioned later, and entered a 
smaller one adjoining it, planted with plane-trees and 
cypresses, and laid out in flower-beds intersected with 
running streams and paved walks. Its walls were 
covered with brilliantly glazed tiles, and on three sides 
there were buildings having large saloons opening 
wide upon it. With measured tread we descended 
one of the walks until we arrived at a tank in the 
centre of the court. The Persians bowed low as we 
here came in sight of their sovereign, and we followed 
their example ; with less decorum, I fear, most of us 
being at that moment intent on upholding the sacred 
character of treaties by again discarding our goloshes. 
A few steps more and we entered the presence cham- 
ber, a moderately-sized saloon, on three sides of which 
the walls were covered with paintings of birds and 
flowers, — the loves of nightingale and rose — on a 
blue ground ; the fourth was occupied by a window 
fitted with carved wood and painted glass, looking 
on to the court, and now open. The ceiling was 
vaulted and honey- combed, and glittered with gilding 
alternated with small pieces of mirror-glass. In the 
centre of the room, which was richly carpeted, played 
a rock-crystal fountain, a present from the Empress 

State Reception by the Shah. If 5 

Catherine to a former Shah, and around it stood 
eighteen solidly gilded chairs. Near the window was 
a throne of sandal -wood thickly studded with large 
emeralds, and most incongruously cushioned with 
Manchester chintz ; close to it, on a carpet sewn with 
pearls, stood Nasreddeen Shah. 

He was then thirty-six years of age ; he is a little 
above the average height, well proportioned, and 
has regular features, though his forehead is rather low 
and his nose somewhat too prominent. His eyes 
are dark, and overhung by thick black eyebrows, which 
give them a mistrustful expression. He wears a 
moustache and closely-cropped beard. Altogether he 
is a handsome man, and the magnificence of his dress 
added not a little to his appearance. 

In his hat he wore an aigrette, the distinctive 
emblem of royalty, of diamonds and rubies ; his tunic, 
cut square and descending to his knees, was a blaze of 
brilliants and pearls, and in his belt, from which hung 
a jewelled sword and scabbard, glittered the Darya- 
noor, or sea of light, a sister diamond of our Koh-i- 
noor. White trousers and socks completed his 
costume. At his feet lay another of the royal 
insignia, a large sceptre, completely studded over with 
precious stones. By the side of all these treasures, a 
pair of common cotton gloves of an ugly brown colour, 
over which he wore several sapphire and turquoise 
rings, looked as incongruous as the Manchester chintz. 

Our audience was a short one. The senior of the 
envoys addressed, through an interpreter, a few com- 

166 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

plimentary phrases to his Majesty, who was pleased to 
return a gracious reply ; some presentations were 
made, and we then backed out, and, once more putting 
on our goloshes, were conducted to an upper chamber 
looking out on the grand court of the Palace. 

This court, of much larger proportions than the one 
we had just left, was of oblong shape, and had at its 
upper end a large hall, similar in form and arrangement 
to the saloon above described, opening on a tank, in the 
centre of which played a fountain, and around which 
were placed flowers and shrubs, trays of sweetmeats 
and silver coins, and large china bowls of sherbet ; 
beyond it extended a broad paved avenue, flanked 
by tall plane-trees and poplars. On each side 
of the tank and avenue were ranged, according to 
their respective rank, the grandees and officers of the 
court : the men of the pen, civilians, mollahs, astro- 
logers, &c, in scarlet jubbahs and stockings and conical 
turbans of varied colours, to the right; the men of 
the sword, in uniforms heavily embroidered with gold 
lace, and of such eccentricity of form and cut that a 
Persian imagination could alone have invented them, 
to the left. Reclining in the avenue were three chained 
lions, and behind them an elephant. 

As the Shah entered the hall, the whole assemblage, 
elephant and all, bowed to the ground ; and the military 
bands, stationed in different parts of the court, pro- 
duced an outburst of the most discordant music. Deep 
silence ensued as his Majesty seated himself on the 
throne, and the highest dignitary of the court, advancing 

Doing Homage to the Shah. 107 

towards the edge of the tank, commenced reciting the 
glories, and eulogizing the qualities of the sovereign ; 
at every mention of whose name the lowest of salaams 
was made by all. At the end of this oration the chief 
mollah took his place, and called down the blessings 
of Allah on his Majesty's head ; the court poet followed, 
singing his praises in verse. Handfuls of coin and 
sweetmeats were then distributed amongst the cour- 
tiers ; sherbets were handed round ; the Shah descended 
from his throne, and deafening discord announced his 
departure and the conclusion of the ceremony. 

The festivities of the day were not yet, how- 
ever, at an end, and we adjourned to another room 
looking out on to the Maidan, where, on a space of 
ground thirty or forty yards square, which was kept 
clear with the utmost difficulty — only, indeed, by the 
constant application of stick to the heads and 
shoulders of the invading crowd — were collected half- 
naked wrestlers, dancing-boys and mummers, giants 
and dwarfs, fighting rams, their fleeces stained in all 
the colours of the rainbow, dancing bears and 
monkeys, and chained tigers. At a given signal, as 
soon as his Majesty entered the room adjoining our 
own, all this motley crew was set in motion amidst 
fresh outbursts of discord. The wrestlers wrestled ; 
the boys, mummers, bears and monkeys, danced pell- 
mell ; the giants threw the dwarfs aloft, the rams 
fought and the tigers roared, whilst the crowd renewed 
its efforts to get a sight of the sports, and the sticks 
of the ferrashes descended thick as hail on their 

168 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

shoulders. The spectacle was .anything but regal, 
and we were all glad when an end was put to it by 
the distribution of small coin amongst the performers 
and the departure of his Majesty. 

The rest of the day was occupied in paying State 
visits, but illness prevented my leaving the house 
again. The climate of Persia is a treacherous one ; 
its clear blue sky and limpid atmosphere look as 
healthy as they are beautiful, but they seldom agree 
with Europeans, who are almost always attacked either 
by fever or diarrhoea and dy sen try. Weakened, pro- 
bably, by my long journey in the snow, I had suffered, 
ever since my arrival at the capital, from the latter ; 
and as they did not yield to the doctor's remedies, and 
threatened to take a chronic form, I was at last advised 
to try change of air, and eagerly availed myself of a 
proposal made to me by two of our Engineer officers,- to 
accompany them in a journey to the southern provinces 
of the kingdom. The mere prospect of escaping from 
the monotonous life of an Eastern town seemed to 
abate the acuteness of my complaint, and in a few 
days I felt strong enough to mount my horse. Before 
starting, however, I must relate an anecdote illus- 
trative of Persian habits and customs. 

There was then but one European lady at Tehran, 
and our social resources were consequently very 
limited. The post from Europe only reached us once 
a month, and time often hung heavy on our hands, 
especially in the long winter evenings. There was a 
billiard -table at the English Mission, but one can't 

In-door Pastimes — A Debt of Honour. 169 

always play at billiards ; and thus it came to pass, as 
it does so frequently when young men are deprived of 
ladies' society, that card- playing became one of our 
amusements, and games of hazard, restrained within 
certain limits, not the least agreeable of them. 
Gradually a few Persians, whose whole life is so much 
a question of luck and chance that they at once entered 
into the spirit of these games, joined our party, but 
turned out such bad payers that it was found necessary 
to adopt with them the rule of " money on the table." 
It was not, however, always very strictly observed ; 
and one evening, the first time I ever played, I 
found that I had won some 10/. or 12/., which were 
not at once forthcoming, from Prince * *, the son of 
the Prime Minister. As I was a complete stranger in 
the country, my host informed me before leaving him 
that, in accordance with its customs, I must send my 
servant next morning to claim the money. He 
accordingly went to the house of the Prince, but was 
told to call again next day. The same answer was 
given on his second and all future visits, until the eve 
of my departure from Tehran, when, being disgusted 
with these attempts at evasion, and all the more 
determined to make his Highness pay, I put the 
matter in the hands of a mirza, who at once sent a 
mohassil, or armed bailiff, with orders to sit at his 
door until the debt was acquitted. And there he sat 
for three or four days," before shame, or the annoyance 
caused by his presence, induced the great man to open 
his purse-strings. 

170 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 


Preparations for a Caravan Journey — Start for Ispahan — 
Valley of the Angel of Death — Devils — Koom — Kashan 
— The good Emir — Ispahan — Palaces of Forty Pillars 
and Eight Paradises — Armenian Quarter — Shaking 
Minarets — Rifle -Practice — Manna. 

The preparations which must be made for a three - 
months' journey in Persia, where, as we have seen, 
inns and hotels are unknown, and, except in the 
sparsely-scattered towns, only the merest necessities of 
life are to be found, require some forethought ; though 
much less than would be supposed by a complete 
stranger to the country. There is there no such thing 
as settling down for life ; existence is always more or 
less nomadic ; all classes of society are accustomed to 
being constantly on the move, and, either as a conse- 
quence of, or a reason for, this custom, none of them 
are encumbered with what is not easily portable in the 
way of furniture and household goods. The word 
"home" has much less connection with the idea of 
permanency than with us, and the inconveniences of 
going abroad are consequently much fewer. 

I have already described a journey by post. We 

V reparations for a Caravan Journey. — Taking a Fal. 171 

were now about to undertake one by caravan, and the 
first thing to be done was to find the means of trans- 
port. After a good deal of preliminary haggling and 
bargaining as to the price of the beasts and the length 
of each day's march, we succeeded in hiring twenty 
mules, at the modest rate of Is. lOd. per diem, and 
three muleteers. Then came the question of the 
quantity of baggage we should take with us : we had to 
make ourselves as comfortable as possible, and yet not 
overburden our mules. Had we been Persians we should 
at once have solved this problem by taking a Fal : i.e., 
opening a book, the Koran or Hafiz for instance, at ran- 
dom, and interpreting, no matter how forcedly, the first 
line at the top of the page as decisive of the point in 
question one way or the other ; then, having thus made 
fate responsible for our future comfort or discomfort, we 
should have camped outside the town for a couple of 
days, in order to prove our gear and be ready to start 
at the moment which astrology might declare 
propitious. As we were still uncontaminated English- 
men, these matters were referred to common sense ; 
which decided that, in addition to beds, bedding, ward- 
robe, wine, washing, cooking and table apparatus, 
guns, rifles, ammunition, and a few books, we should 
each of us have a camp-stool, three saddle-horses, and 
three servants, together with one table and a cook for 
the party ; and that, as the stars might have quite 
enough work on hand in combining horoscopes and 
auguries for their numerous Persian readers, we should 
not add to their labours by requesting them to fix the 

172 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

hour of our departure, but remain quietly in our homes 
until all preparations were completed. 

Our caravan finally consisted of twenty-nine 
quadrupeds and thirteen bipeds, besides ourselves — 
viz., an officer and doctor of the Telegraph Staff and 
myself : and, the bulk of it having been despatched on 
its way two days previously, we donned our pith 
helmets, boots and spurs, stuck our pistols and flasks 
into our holsters, and, accompanied by our three head 
servants, rode out of the gates of Tehran on the 
morning of the 27th of March. 

As a preliminary canter to our long ride, we had a 
couple of hot runs — for the sun's rays were already 
becomiDg powerful — with the Legation hounds, and 
after partaking of a farewell breakfast, which was given 
us in a cool garden by the friends we were to leave 
behind us, mounted fresh horses, and proceeded on our 
w r ay to the south. The cultivated portions of the plain 
were green with the fresh- springing corn, but as we 
advanced these disappeared from view, and we soon 
found ourselves amidst the usual characteristics of 
Persian scenery — aridity and brownness. A march of 
four hours, the latter part over a low ridge of hills 
running east and west, brought us to Kinarigerd, our 
first manzil or halting-place, twenty miles on the road 
to Ispahan. 

We rose betimes next morning from our straw 
couches on the floor of the post-house, and started with 
the sun through the " Valley of the Angel of Death." 
No other name could better indicate the dreariness of 

Valley of the Angel of Death. 173 

this region. It is a succession of narrow gloomy glens, 
shut in by parched volcanic bills, through which the 
path runs over alternate patches of nitre and moveable 
sand. Not a blade of grass, not a solitary herb ever 
grows in its lifeless salt- sown soil, and no locality was 
ever better chosen for what Persians suppose it to be — 
the abode of Gins and Deeves, the satellites of Shaitan : 
the Devil. Emerging, after a three-hours' ride, from 
this weird scenery, we reached the plain of Houze Sultan, 
equally devoid of vegetation, but having its dun 
monotony relieved by large tracts of salt, cropping up, 
white as snow and a couple of inches thick, from the 
soil ; and by spiral dust columns, striding along and 
about like so many giant beings from the lower world. 
These phenomena are caused by whirlwinds ; their 
base is generally about twenty feet in diameter, and 
they rise straight up into the sky, becoming broader 
and less dense as they get higher and the force of the 
air-current decreases. The natives call them devils, 
and as they move, without losing their original forms, 
at a pace as capricious as the wind, they look very 
much like animated beings. Cariosity induced me to 
ride through one of them, and I found the draught so 
strong that all my clothes flew upwards, and fancied 
that a slight addition to its strength would have carried 
myself and horse in the same direction : needless to 
say that I was blinded with dust and gravel. In the 
middle of the plain, which is unbounded except by 
some ranges of hills to the north and south, we came 
upon a large lake nearly a mile broad, which owed its 

174 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

ephemeral existence to the unusual quantity of snow 
which had fallen amongst the hills during the winter, 
and was now fast melting in the warmth of spring. 
So impregnated is this region with salt, that its water, 
three feet deep in many places, was more than brackish. 
Wading through it, with the telegraph-posts for our 
guide, we arrived in due time at the southern extremity 
of the plain, crossed the hills, and descended to the 
post-house of "Pool-i-Dellak," " The Barber's Bridge," 
so-called from the bridge which a barber, either from 
patriotism or by way of atonement for past misdeeds, 
erected many years ago over the neighbouring river 

Fresh horses were here procured, and carried us 
over another dun plain in a few hours to the city of 
Koom, where green cornfields and glittering domes 
were a refreshing sight after the dreary scenery of our 
sixty -five miles' ride. Here we rejoined our caravan, 
and found comfortable quarters and a good dinner 
awaiting us. 

Koom is a very holy place, second only in holiness 
to Meshed, and one of the most favourite burial- 
grounds in the country. All Persians like their bones 
to lie near those of some saintly personage, in the 
hope, probably, of gaining easy admittance to Paradise 
under the aegis of his sanctity, and Koom has within 
its walls the tomb of a saint — Fatima, a near descend- 
ant of the Prophet — whom they all especially revere. 
Such, indeed, is the reverence in which she is held 
that the dome of her tomb is covered with plates of 

City of Koom — Tomb of Fatima. 175 

gold, and an intercessionary influence is ascribed to 
her, as great, perhaps, as that which, in Catholic 
countries, is attributed to the Virgin. Two kings of 
Persia lie near her, besides many men of note in their 
day. Caravans of bodies, packed in the frailest of 
coffins and slung like merchandise on the backs of 
mules, are continually arriving from all parts of the 
country ; and the only occupation of the inhabitants of 
the place seems to be interment. Seyeds who, as 
descendants of the Prophet, are alone authorised to 
wear his colour, green, in their turbans, and mollahs 
abound, and are as intolerant as they are numerous. 
We knew, of course, that it would be impossible to 
obtain admission to the tombs, and, therefore, 
refrained from attempting to obtain it ; but the mere 
presence of " infidels " within the precincts of the holy 
place seemed to be viewed with disapprobation, and 
I was not sorry to ride away next morning through 
the ruins which surround it and still mark the 
ravages committed during the Affghan invasion of 

We were now to march at caravan pace, and the 
order of our day was generally as follows. At sunrise 
we were called, and, after washing, where water was 
procurable, and dressing, had tea and bread ; the 
mules had meantime been loaded, and, as soon as our 
bedding was packed, were sent off with our grooms 
and led horses ; the cook trotted ahead as fast as he 
could go, with his pots and pans, in order to have 
time to prepare our meal at the end of the stage ; 

176 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

last of all, we started on our own horses, and with 
three servants carrying our breakfast, prepared the 
night before, and our guns. Between ten and eleven 
we halted to eat and rest for an hour or two, and rode 
on again in the afternoon. Now and then we left the 
road to get a shot from our horses, trained to stand 
fire from their backs, at red-legged partridges and 
wild pigeons ; or, more rarely, to have a useless gallop 
after antelope. We generally reached our manzil by 
sunset : if the muleteers, who are fond of loitering 
and require some trusty servants to keep them up to 
time, had done their duty, we found our quarters 
ready to receive us, the table laid and dinner at once 
forthcoming ; and the day closed by our going early 
to bed. 

Notwithstanding the monotony of most Persian 
scenery, this species of travelling has a great charm : 
in fact, with agreeable companions, good health, and 
fine weather, I can imagine nothing pleasanter. The 
traveller has perfect freedom — he can go where he 
likes and halt where he likes. With a well- equipped 
caravan, he is as independent as man can be. There 
is always sufficient incident to drive away ennui, and 
the certainty, continually brought home to him, that 
his safety depends solely on himself, is productive of 
quite enough healthy excitement. 

Our march on the 29th was a long one— twenty- 
eight miles. During the whole day we skirted, to our 
right, a range of volcanic-looking hills, showing strong 
indications of the existence in them of sulphur and 

The Great Salt Desert — Kashan. 177 

iron, whilst to our left, i.e. eastwards, our view 
extended unimpeded over the flat arid confines of the 
Great Salt Desert. Not a single traveller did we meet, 
and only one solitary cultivated oasis did we see — a 
garden, where two fine firs overhung the remains of a 
ruined village, and the apricot and peach-trees were 
in full blossom — until we reached the caravansary of 
Sin-Sin, and took up our quarters, almost a la belle 
etoile, within its shattered and crumbling walls, fitting 
abodes of jackals and owls, which kept up their dismal 
screeching all night. 

Longer still was our next day's journey, thirty-two 
miles, to Kashan, a town of about 15,000 inhabitants, 
famous for its silk brocades, copper kettles, and 
scorpions. Our morning's ride was through scenery 
similar to that of the previous day, but after break- 
fast we reached an open stoneless plain, and left 
the hills some distance to our right. At their foot, 
and about four miles from Kashan, are the villa and 
gardens of Feen, well known throughout Persia, not 
only for their beauty, but also as having been the 
scene of one of the saddest tragedies in its recent 

Mirza Taghi, the son of a court cook, had raised 
himself by his talents and clear-headedness from a 
menial post in the household of Mahomed Shah to 
that of Persian consul at Erzeroum, and had there 
entered into commercial relations and gained much 
influence with the richest merchants of his own 
country. On the death of that sovereign, in 1818, 


178 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia* 

he hastened to Tabreez, where the heir- apparent was 
living almost in a state of penury, and rendered such 
services in procuring money for the payment of his 
troops and other pressing wants, that, previous to his 
entry into the capital, the new Shah made him 
his Grand Vizir, with the title of Emir-i-Nizam. 
The whole kingdom was then in a most disordered 
state ; the treasury was empty, the army undis- 
ciplined, the taxes unpaid, and revolt imminent in 
several of the provinces. Nasreddeen Shah was an 
inexperienced lad of eighteen, and it required all the 
sagacity and energy of a strong mind to overcome 
these difficulties and seat him firmly on his throne. 
The Emir showed himself equal to the occasion, and, 
after disarming the dangerous tribes, re-establishing 
order, and replenishing the State coffers, received as 
his reward the hand of the King's sister, a very pretty 
girl of fourteen, who, though at first averse to this 
forced marriage, afterwards became much attached to 
her husband. He was now at the zenith of his power, 
and, with the return of tranquillity, devoted all his 
attention to the regeneration of his country ; which he 
foresaw could only be accomplished by a complete 
reform of the administration, and by ameliorating the 
condition of the agricultural population. 

The measures he took for carrying out these projects 
resulted in his becoming hated by the numerous and 
powerful class of courtiers, khans, and governors who 
lived on the proceeds of extortion and abuses, and 
idolized by the still more numerous but weaker class 

Career and Fate of the Good Emir. 179 

which found protection under his just rule. The former 
determined on his ruin ; the Queen-Mother was gained 
over to their views, the King's mind was poisoned with 
calumnies, the Emir was represented as aiming at the 
throne, and his popularity was cited as a proof of his 
ambitious designs. For some time the King wavered, 
but finally the Palace intrigue succeeded, and in 1851 
the Emir was banished to Feen. His young wife 
accompanied him in his exile ; she left him neither 
day nor night, herself attended to all his wants, and 
prepared all his food, with a sad but well-founded 
presentiment that her presence alone could shield him 
from further injury at the hands of his now triumphant 
enemies. Not content with his ruin, they soon after- 
wards demanded his death, and induced the King, in 
a moment of weakness, to sign the warrant. The 
man entrusted with its execution was a former protege 
of the Emir. On his arrival at the villa, he gave 
himself out as the bearer of good news from court, 
and thus calmed the wife's fears, and induced her, 
though reluctantly, to leave him alone with his late 
benefactor. She never saw her husband again. He 
was taken to the bath, his veins were opened, and 
there he expired. 

The widow's fate is illustrative of the treatment of 
a Persian royal princess. Some months later the 
Shah ordered her to marry the son of the new Prime 
Minister. Her compliance was signified by these 
words: "I give you permission to marry me to this 
man and to all future Grand Vizirs." As may be 

180 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

supposed, her second marriage was not a happy one. 
Her health failed ; a European doctor was called to 
attend her, but in reply to his daily inquiries as to 
her malady, he got but one answer, " My heart is 
sore." She recovered, however, and on the disgrace 
of her father-in-law, which occurred a few years after- 
wards, was divorced by the King's order, and finally 
married to her cousin, " the Eye of the Kingdom/' 

The Garden of Feen is surrounded with high walls 
and planted with avenues of tall cypresses, through 
which run streams of water inclosed in canals of blue 
tiles. The villa consists of a number of pavilions, 
only one of which need be described. Its external 
form is that of a square kiosk, with a projecting 
portico in front ; the ceilings of the interior being 
vaulted and decorated with minute arabesques in 
gold and brilliant colours. The walls of the kiosk 
are covered on three sides with paintings of a royal 
hunt, in which the king is represented as double 
the size of his sons and courtiers, and of combats 
between Persians and Turcomans, in which the latter 
are, of course, getting much the worst of it ; whilst 
the fourth opens into the arched portico, which is, so 
to say, floored with a tank of clear bubbling water. 
The bath in which the good Emir, as he is still 
called, died, is fast falling to decay, but otherwise the 
place is well kept up, and may again become the 
abode of disgraced ministers. To us, after our long 
hot ride, its green shade and cool waters appeared a 
paradise, and we left it at sunset with regret. 

Garden of Feen — Mountain Pass and Village. 181 

No scorpions disturbed our dreams, and next day, 
after twenty miles' march, we reached the southern 
extremity of the plain of Kashan, and ascended a 
rugged steep path, which brought us before evening 
to a large and flourishing upland village, by name 
Kohrood, supplied with abundance of water and em- 
bedded in trees. Its elevation is about 6,000 feet 
above the sea, and we consequently again found 
ourselves for the night in a wintry temperature. 

On the 1st of April we breakfasted on the summit 
of the pass we had been ascending. A boiling ther- 
mometer showed it to be 8,000 feet high. On its 
southern slope we found snow, several feet deep, and 
so soft that we were obliged to dismount and drive 
our horses before us for some hours. The mules had 
a sad time of it, often sinking up to their bellies and 
requiring the asistance of several men to put them on 
their legs again, and we did not reach our quarters in 
the caravansary of Sow till late in the evening. On 
the 2nd and morning of the 3rd, we marched fifty-two 
miles, through the village of Mourcha-Kar, and over 
an undulating brown plain, sparsely sprinkled with 
camel-thorn, where we had some vain gallops after 
antelope, to Gez. There we left our caravan to follow 
at its own pace, took post-horses for our last short 
stage of sixteen miles, and at noon reached the gates 
of the city of Ispahan. 

Nishfi Jehan. 

(Ispahan is half the World.) 

182 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia, 

Such was the proud title given to the capital of the 
Soofees. The name of the most distinguished king of 
this dynasty, Shah Abbas the Great, has already been 
often mentioned in connection with the finest cara- 
vansaries and mosques which we have seen during our 
journey, but it is here alone that a correct idea can be 
formed of his magnificence and of the prosperity of 
Persia during his reign. Since then (1585 — 1627) 
two centuries and a half have elapsed, time and 
neglect have done their work, and the city has been 
occupied by devastating hordes of Affghans ; but it still 
possesses sufficient remains of its former splendour to 
prove that the adoption of its title was justifiable, and 
to confirm the description given us of it by the 
chroniclers of the time. 

Ispahan is beautifully situated on the banks of the 
Zeinderood, a considerable stream which issues from 
the hills a few miles to the west of the city, and, 
after irrigating a large portion of the surrounding 
plain, finally loses itself, like so many other rivers in 
this country, in the sands of the desert. The climate 
is salubrious and the soil most fertile. In the time of 
its glory, it is said to have contained 1,000,000 
inhabitants, who received their supplies from 1,400 
neighbouring villages. There are now barely 60,000 
of the former, and probably not 100 of the latter. 

The river is spanned by three bridges, the finest 
of which is provided with arched and covered foot- 
paths on each side of the roadway. From it a broad 
stately avenue of several rows of enormous chenars 

Ispahan — College of Hossein. 183 

(a very fine species of plane-tree), with a canal of 
black marble and hewn stone (now waterless) in the 
centre, leads through the heart of the city to the 
Great Maidan, a large square, surrounded by hand- 
some arcades, and formerly the scene of royal reviews 
and pageants. On each side of the avenue are the 
structures most worthy of note — the College of Hossein, 
and the Palaces of " Chehel Sitoon " (forty pillars) 
and of " Heshte Beheste " (eight paradises). 

The college is a large imposing edifice, completely 
cased in tile-work, covered with the most exquisite 
tracery, like the finest lace, brilliantly coloured on a 
white ground. Its high arched doorway, supported by 
columns of white marble, gives admittance into a 
spacious court shaded by tall trees and planted with 
roses, and having a tank and fountain in the centre. 
Around three of its sides run double ranges of cloisters, 
one above the other ; on the fourth, a noble horseshoe 
arch opens into a mosque, the interior of which was 
concealed from view by a heavy curtain. There was 
an atmosphere of coolness, serenity, and seclusion 
about the place which seemed peculiarly adapted to 
reverie and thought ; and had it not been for the 
brilliant colouring of the walls and the excessive purity 
of the blue sky, I could have fancied myself inside some 
silent Catholic convent in Europe. Students there were 
none ; nor, indeed, any living beings except the porter, 
who offered me a glass of sherbet and a kalian daintily 
decked with fresh roses : we saw a couple of white- 
turbaned mollahs on their way to mid-day prayer. 

184 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

The Palace of Chehel Sitoon stands in a large 
shady garden, laid out, according to the usual fashion 
of the country, in parallel walks with running streams. 
Its forty pillars, ranged at intervals of a few yards, in 
five rows, rise forty feet high from sockets formed by 
the united backs of four couchant lions of white marble, 
and support the roof of a portico entirely open to the 
garden on three sides. Each pillar is covered with 
arabesques and patterns in gold colours, and 
innumerable pieces of mirror glass, so minute and 
intricate, and yet harmonious, that it were vain to 
attempt to unravel them. The ceiling is decorated 
in the same style, so that there are not only reflec- 
tions on all sides of everything within sight, but likewise 
refracted reflections ad infinitum, and the eye is dazzled 
and bewildered amidst a blaze of the most lavish 
glitter and colour. Passing from this fairy hall 
through a lofty arched doorway, a saloon is entered 
still more gorgeous in its designs and colouring, 
gilding and glass. It was the throne-room, and 
all that Eastern fancy could invent and Eastern art 
execute has been expended in the labyrinths of its 
elaborate decoration, which my pen cannot describe, 
and the like of which I have only met with in the 
tales of the Arabian Nights. Close by is the banquet- 
ing-hall, the floor of which was still covered with a 
carpet, dating, I was told, from the time of Abbas. 
It is adorned with paintings representing scenes which 
probably often took place within its walls. In one of 
them the king reclines on carpets and cushions amidst 

Palace of Chehel Sltoon — Wall- Paintings, 185 

goblets and flagons ; around him sit his courtiers ; 
in the foreground are girls in beautiful shawl dresses, 
dancing amongst jars of wine and dishes of pome- 
granates, whilst behind, pages and more dancing-girls 
play on guitars and tambourines, or hand pipes and 
bowls to the revellers. These paintings, though 
ridiculously defective in perspective and drawing, and 
completely wanting in effects of light and shade, are 
interesting studies of customs and costumes. It is 
evident from them, did we not know it from other 
sources, that the Soofee monarchs were much addicted 
to carousing, not to say debauchery of all sorts, in 
public, and that instead of the beards and ugly tall 
hats of the present generation, the men then wore 
turbans, moustaches, and had their chins shaven. Many 
of the paintings have been sadly spoilt by the subse- 
quent introduction of would-be European figures, one of 
which is often repeated. It represents a youth in the 
costume of the reign of Charles L, who goes by the 
name of Mirza Istirgey, but is really a portrait of a 
Mr. Strachey, secretary to one of the English envoys 
to the Persian Court, where his handsome features and 
figure were very much admired. Chehel Sitoon 
is now the workshop of the Prince Governor's 

The Palaces of Heshte Beheste are smaller, but 
in the same style as that which I have just sketched, 
and are surrounded by extensive gardens. The 
further sights of the town are : the stables of Abbas, 
ornamented with paintings of horsemanship and the 

186 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

chase ; the bazaars, which are the handsomest in 
Persia, and extend for miles in different parts of the 
city; the Meshed-i-Shah or Shah's Mosque, with its 
dome of glazed tiles, ornamented with dark blue and 
green foliage and flowers on a pale turquoise ground ; 
and the gate of AH, a tall three-storied building some 
ninety or one hundred feet high. Beautiful as is the 
ornamentation of many of them, it was their proportions 
and solidity which most impressed me. 

All the other Persian towns which I have seen pre- 
viously or subsequently are cramped and confined, 
resembling assemblages of molehills intersected by 
narrow dirty lanes. But Ispahan is a city of stately broad 
avenues, handsome bridges, lofty and spacious bazaars, 
extensive squares and gardens, and palaces worthy of 
a great king. It was evidently designed by a master 
hand, and restoring, in my mind's eye, all that I had 
seen to its original splendour, -I"' could well imagine 
that in the days of Persia's " Grand Monarque " it 
was one of the finest capitals in the world. The view 
from the top of the gate of Ali quite confirmed me in 
this opinion. Thence I saw a scene of devastation 
which surpassed anything I had yet witnessed in this 
country of ruins. I think I am not exaggerating 
in saying that, around the portion of the city just 
mentioned, there are square miles of tottering and 
crumbling walls. Ispahan has indeed fallen from its 
high estate. Since the terrible blow it received from 
the Affghan occupation in 1722, it has ever been 
going to destruction. Its beautiful gardens are de- 

Former Grandeur of Ispahan — The Armenians. 187 

serted, its vast bazaars untenanted, and its, streets 
empty. Decay is slowly but surely eating into the 
very entrails of the city, and, unless arrested, will 
soon have consumed all that now remains of its 

We were very comfortably lodged, during our stay 

of four days, in the house of the telegraph officer of the 

station, in the Armenian quarter of the town. In one 

of his wars with the Turks, Abbas the Great found it 

necessary to besiege and take Julfa, then a flourishing 

town inhabited principally by Armenians, but now 

the miserable place I have described on my first 

entrance into Persia. Well knowing the commercial 

talents of these people, he transported the whole of 

them to Ispahan, and settled them in one of its 

suburbs, which still bears the name of their native 

place. They had no reason to regret this treatment, 

for they always enjoyed the special protection of the 

Soofee kings and became exceedingly wealthy. But 

their day has likewise gone by : instead of thousands 

there are now only a few hundreds of them; with 

their numbers, their wealth has decreased, and they 

are now not only poor, but oppressed. I paid a visit 

to their archbishop, who was delighted to hear news 

from Etchmiadzin, and to his church, St. Joseph ; its 

walls are covered with hideous paintings of martyrdoms 

and the last judgment, in which torture and torments 

arp the prevailing features. No external signs of 

their religion are tolerated : the cross must not 

appear on their churches, and, as bells are prohibited, 

183 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

the sacristan announces the hour of service by beating 
a board with a species of drumstick. 

The wonders of the world are now innumerable ; 
but in the days of our childhood, books told us there 
were only seven, and that next to the Colossus of 
Khodes, the shaking Minarets of Ispahan were the 
most marvellous of them. Mindful of this, we rode 
out one morning after breakfast, through four miles of 
ruins, to see them, and I confess that my expectations 
were so wofully disappointed when I first came in 
sight of them, that I felt inclined to turn tail and ride 
home again. Instead of graceful airy forms, of bright- 
coloured tiles and gilding, I saw two constructions 
exactly like the brick chimneys of an English foundry, 
rising some twenty or thirty feet high above the roof 
of a decayed and desecrated mosque. Their custodian, 
however, prevailed on us to dismount, and feel, if we 
could not see, the effect of these world-wide marvels. 
Narrow stairs, just capable of admitting one man, lead 
to their summits, which are surrounded by low 
parapets; he mounted one and I the other, and as 
soon as we were aloft, he signalled " attention " to me 
and commenced swaying his body slowly backwards 
and forwards. The Minarets at once followed his 
motions, and began to bend and sway like pliant 
willow-wands ; in a few moments their oscillation 
became so great, and we got so far out of the perpen- 
dicular, that I quite repented of my first- disappointing 
impression, and was glad to descend again to terra 
firma. One can imagine a single tower so constructed 

Shaking Minarets — The Prince Governor. 189 

that a man at its top can make it oscillate ; it is more 
difficult to discover how he can make a second tower, 
twelve or fourteen yards distant, participate in that 
oscillation. Therein lies the marvel. Its explanation 
might perhaps be found in a minute examination of 
the mosque roof which forms the base of the Minarets ; 
but we had no time for this, as .our departure was 
fixed for the next day. 

We had set our minds upon enjoying once more 
the uncommon luxury of river scenery, and upon passing 
our last afternoon on the banks of the Zeinderood in 
the pleasant gardens of the "Haft Desht," or Seven 
Suites, and "Ayneh Khaneh," or House of Mirrors, 
formerly occupied by the royal harem, and similar in 
structure and decoration to the palaces we have already 
seen. Close to them is the two-storied bridge of 
Alaverdy Khan, a picturesque mixture of stone and brick 
arches. The day was hot, and we stopped for a few 
minutes near some groups of Persians who were sitting 
cross-legged in its shade, smoking their kalians and 
enjoying the cool breeze from the river. Whilst there, a 
messenger arrived to tell us that the Prince Governor, 
the King's eldest son, and then about sixteen years old, 
would be glad to see us. We found him in one of the 
neighbouring gardens, whiling away the time with 
rifle-practice. He welcomed us with great courtesy, 
invited us to sit on his carpet, and, after tea, pipes 
and compliments, to join in his amusement. The 
target was a brickbat on the opposite side of the river 
about eighty yards off, and to the Prince's great 

190 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

delight, we all missed it. When his turn came, a 
servant prostrated himself as a rest for the rifle, and 
the brickbat fell to his shot. This naturally increased 
his good-humour, for nothing pleases a Persian more 
than skill in the use of fire-arms, and we parted the 
best of friends ; we well satisfied that the employment by 
his attendants (unknown to him, and of course winked 
at by us) of the very simple and transparent artifice of 
loading his rifle with slugs instead of ball, should 
have afforded his Highness the pleasure of supposing 
that he had beaten us with our own weapons. 

On our way home, we passed several of the pigeon 
towers with which the neighbourhood of the town is 
thickly studded. They are very valuable property, 
being the deposits whence the manure is obtained for 
the cultivation of what is here an important article of 
food — the melon ; a fruit which, as far as my experience 
goes, can only be eaten to perfection in Persia : 
perhaps, indeed, only at Ispahan, where so much 
attention is paid to maturing it that it is never pulled 
until, to use the people's language, the gallop of a 
horse near its bed would make it burst. Its mellow- 
ness and flavour are exquisite. Equally good are 
the peaches, apricots, and quinces, which are sent in 
a dried state all over the* kingdom. Another of the 
products of this district is "gez," or manna, a fine 
white powder, having the cohesive qualities of gum 
and a mawkishly sweet taste ; it accumulates from 
the contact of a diminutive insect with the leaves of a 
low shrub very common in the vicinity, and is collected 

Pigeon Towers — Melons — Manna. 191 

by shaking the branches every third day into earthen 
vessels. In its origin and insipidity it thus strongly 
resembles the food which was provided for the children 
of Israel in the desert, and of which they so soon tired. 
Worked up into round cakes, it is much relished in 
the harems. The trade of Ispahan is very trifling. 
Its gold brocades and printed cottons have a certain 
reputation, but as hand-dies are the only implements 
used in printing, the quantity of the latter must 
necessarily be very limited. 

192 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 


Fellek and Chub — Persian Doctors — Yezdicaust — Abadeh — 
Antelopes and Moufflons — Pasargad^e — Tomb of Cyrus 
— Plain of Merdasht — Naksh-i-Bustem — Tomb of Darius 
— Sassanian Bas-reliefs — Bahram Gour and his favourite 
Wife — Persepolis — Tragic Story of a Lutee Bashee — 

The reasons which induce English schoolmasters of 
the Squeers category to give their rods the most 
prominent place in the schoolroom, likewise cause 
Persians of rank and authority to keep a " fellek " 
and " chub " always conspicuously in view. The first 
of these implements is a stout pole six or eight feet 
long with two rope nooses in the centre ; the second, 
a bundle of the most pliable sticks that can be found ; 
and when the wholesome fear their aspect inspires 'is 
unavailing, they are put in requisition as follows. 
The culprit is laid on his back with his legs in the air ; 
his feet are inserted in the nooses and held immovable, 
with their soles in a horizontal position, by two men, 
one at each end of the pole; two others commence 
beating with all their might, supplying themselves, 
when necessary, with fresh sticks out of the bundle, 
until the number to which he has been sentenced is 

Effect of the Felleh and Chub — The Sand-Grouse. 193 

exhausted, when he is allowed to creep home if he 
can, or is carried off by his friends. This punishment 
is a cruel one, but often unavoidable, and we were very 
near being obliged to have it inflicted on our muleteer 
before we could proceed on our journey. 

He naturally preferred the luxuries of dried peaches 
and apricots for himself, and those of green fodder and 
abundance of chopped straw for his mules, to the hard 
commons of the desert, and, under all sorts of pretexts, 
retarded our departure. At last, finding argument 
useless, we requested the kedkhoda or mayor of the 
district to try his means of persuasion, and he accord- 
ingly paid us a visit with his myrmidons and insignia 
of office ; thus brought face to face with the fellek, 
the muleteer came to his senses and consented to fulfil 
his contract and proceed on his journey. 

It was not, however, until late in the afternoon of 
the 7th of April that we could start, and our march 
was consequently a very short one of twelve miles, to 
Marg, a tumble-down post-house amongst the hills 
which form the southern boundary of the Ispahan 
plain. On the 8th, passing through rugged brown 
valleys and desert plains, we reached Mayar, 24 miles ; 
and on the 9th, Koomeshah, about the same distance. 
On the 10th, our way lay for sixteen miles through an 
unusual number of villages and fields of corn, cotton, 
and castor- oil plants, where wild pigeon abounded. We 
managed to bag ten couples, and also a sand-grouse, a 
very pretty bird, resembling its own genus in the legs 
and lower part of the body, and a pigeon in the form 


194 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

of its head and neck : the belly is very dark brown, 
and the rest of the plumage of a beautiful fawn-colour, 
painted with black. It is found, scattered in small 
numbers, over almost the whole of the Persian 
table-land, but is very shy and difficult to approach. 

After our sport, and whilst breakfasting in the shade 
of a ruined village wall, it became noised abroad that 
one of our party was a Hakim (doctor), and before we 
had eaten many mouthfuls, the blind, the halt, and 
the lame came out to us, in full expectation that a 
Feringhee would work wonders and at once cure them 
of their maladies. My companion had some medi- 
cines with him, and some of them were distributed, 
more with a view to get rid of importunity than in the 
hope of affording relief ; for, unless the cure is instan- 
taneous, these people generally throw the drugs to the 
dogs. The state of medical science in Persia is not 
indeed such as to inspire much confidence, being pro- 
bably much below what it was in Italy when the 
barber added its practice to that of his own more 
lucrative profession ; and the acquirement of suffi- 
cient skill to pursue it in the empirical manner in 
which it is commonly practised cannot, for one or two 
good reasons, present many difficulties. First of all, 
the practitioner is relieved from the necessity of any 
but the most superficial study of the human frame 
by the Koranic prohibition against dissection : under 
cover of which poison can be, and no doubt often is, 
administered with impunity, especially in the harems ; 
and secondly, as all diseases, whatever their symp- 

Medical Practice — Advantages of European Doctors. 195 

toms, are attributed to two causes — excess of heat or 
excess of cold — the doctor has little else to do than 
to decide between them, and apply a hot or a cold 
remedy in accordance with the results of his diagnosis. 
All classes, luckily for them, place little reliance in 
his skill, and are the more anxious, therefore, to 
get advice and medicine from a European doctor ; who, 
wherever he goes, is besieged by scores of patients, 
and is regarded with such confidence that even the 
harem doors are open to his visits. His profession 
thus affords him opportunities of seeing much that is 
hidden to the eye of the ordinary traveller ; and it is 
likewise, to some extent, a guarantee for his security. 
A little practical knowledge of medicine is, therefore, 
a great advantage in the East, and all who are intent 
on exploring its least-frequented parts, and cannot 
disguise themselves as Dervishes, will best consult 
their own safety by passing themselves off as doctors. 
Amongst the most prevalent diseases in Persia are 
blindness and all sorts of ophthalmia, especially cataract, 
which are due, no doubt, to the excessive glare and 
dust of a treeless, arid country. Great precautions 
should be taken by travellers for the protection of 
the eyes ; even with the utmost care mine were always 
much affected by inflammation, for which I found a 
solution containing zinc the best remedy. 

Leaving this subject, and the village, we had a ride 
of twelve miles of desert, during which I saw what I had 
never seen before, a dead donkey. The vultures had 
already found out their prey, and were sitting in 

196 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

solemn conclave around it, so gorged with their feast 
that we had shots at them with our revolvers. The 
powers of sight or scent, or the instinct (let ornitho- 
logists decide which) of these birds, are incredible. I 
have seen a horse fall dead in an almost boundless 
plain, on which no living thing was visible ; in an 
hour or two black specks appeared on the distant 
horizon, or high up in the blue sky : they were the 
vultures, coming from afar, gathering together where 
the carcass was. 

On the 11th, a couple of hours' march brought us 
suddenly to the precipitous edge of a huge chasm, 
about half-a-mile broad, worn deep below the surface 
of the surrounding plain by the action of a small 
stream, which here divides the province of Irak from 
that of Fars — ancient Media from ancient Persis. In 
the middle of this ravine, which was then green 
with corn, rises an isolated, perpendicular- sided mass 
of rock, some two hundred or three hundred feet 
high, surmounted by the picturesque village of 
Yezdicaust. At first sight it looks inaccessible, and 
one wonders how the villagers get up to their eyrie- 
dwellings; but on near approach we found that a 
drawbridge, thrown over a deep ditch, afforded com- 
munication with the foot of the rock, and that a steep 
zigzag path led up over its face to the village. This 
natural stronghold is often thronged with the inhabi- 
tants of the vicinity, who seek safety within its walls 
during the frequent incursions of the Baktiaries, a 
wild marauding tribe, which inhabits the high 

Natural Stronghold — Pilgrims — Rifle Practice. 197 

mountain-ranges on the border of Fars, and is the 
terror of traveller and peasant. After a short halt, 
we rode on to our manzil, in the dilapidated caravan- 
sary of Shulghistan (sixty-four miles from Koomeshah), 
which we found filled with a band of two hundred live 
pilgrims (besides a considerable number of dead ones) 
on their way to the shrine and cemetery of Kerbela. 
After dinner, their leader, a mollah, and their chief 
men, paid us a visit in our cell, and examined our 
camp-furniture and arms with the greatest curiosity. 
Pistols and penknives seemed to interest them most. 
They had come from Shiraz, many of them wdth their 
families, and were to be absent six or seven months. 
After they had left us, to unite in chanting a chorus 
of prayers before going to sleep, we discovered that 
several articles, such as napkins, gloves, &c. &c. were 
missing ; and in order to be ready to resist further 
depredations during the night, we all went to bed with 
our revolvers under our pillows. 

Next day, after a twenty-miles' ride, we reached 
Abadeh, a town of 10,000 inhabitants, fortified against 
attacks from the Baktiaries with high mud walls. 
My friends had business with the governor, and a 
halt of two days was the consequence ; the first being 
devoted to selecting telegraph poles out of the adjacent 
gardens. His excellency, escorted by a large following 
of servants, accompanied us, and in the afternoon 
proposed rifle-practice ; during which he was so much 
astonished at the accuracy of some of our shots at a 
four-hundred yards' range, that he at once offered 

198 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

several horses in exchange for our Westley Kichards. 
In the evening he asked us to dinner ; or rather, as 
his servants explained, to send our dinner, and espe- 
cially wine and brandy, to his house, and mess with 
him ; an arrangement which was so far advantageous 
to us that we thereby secured the use of our knives 
and forks. Our host's contribution to the feast consisted 
of excellent kebabs of antelope, sun-dried shrimps from 
the Persian Gulf, and raki, a strong fiery spirit. It 
lasted several hours, pipes being handed round between 
each dish, and ended by the governor being carried 
off to bed by his servants. For the second day he 
had arranged a hunting excursion, and at 8 a.m. sent 
his horses to our door. Soon after leaving the town 
we spied a troop of twenty antelopes, and galloped off 
in different directions in the hope of getting within range 
of them. I was lucky enough, after a chase of three 
or four miles, to approach within sixty yards of a few 
of the herd, but finding my horse would not stand 
whilst I aimed over his head, was obliged to try the 
Persian method and fire at full gallop. I missed, of 
course, to my great regret, as neither before nor since 
have I ever been so near these shy fleet animals. The 
governor's chikaries (huntsmen) had, meanwhile, been 
sent to drive the neighbouring hills, and whilst we 
were breakfasting at their foot on his pilaus, we 
heard them hallooing with all their might. A wild 
sheep (moufflon) had been viewed, and, full of expec- 
tation, we all hastened to our posts. He broke away 
back through the line of beaters, and neither he nor 

Persian Dinner — Hunting Party — Death and Burial. 199 

any of his fellows was ever seen again ; though, before 
starting, we had been assured we should have capital 
sport and come back laden with game. At sunset 
we returned to the town, mounted our own horses, 
and started in the dark on a sixteen-miles' ride to the 
village of Sormak, whither our caravan had pre- 
ceded us. 

Early on the morning of the 15th the muleteer 
came to tell us his brother was dying. The doctor 
succeeded in reviving him, and seeing that rest and 
quiet were the only means of saving him, recom- 
mended his being left where he was. To this the 
muleteer objected that he could not abandon him 
amongst strangers, that if it was Allah's will that he 
should die, die he would ; and that he had better die, 
as he had lived, with his mules. So he started with 
us on one of them, but expired soon afterwards, and 
was carried back to the village ; there his body was 
interred, according to the custom of the country, in 
a shroud inscribed with verses from the Koran, and 
with the face duly turned towards the sepulchre 
of Ali. 

From Sormak we ascended gradually over a wide 
steppe, twenty-eight miles, to the solitary post-house 
and caravansary of Khonehkhorreh. There is no 
water of any sort between these two places, but there 
must be a considerable rainfall, for, as we neared the 
latter, we found the ground thickly sprinkled with 
wild-peach bushes, thyme, and a sort of furze which 
grows into the shape of a hedgehog. Here and there 

200 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

were crocuses, hyacinths, and scarlet tulips, like our 
English garden ones— the first wild-flowers we had 
seen. In the midst of so much desert they looked 
marvellously beautiful, and, though small and rare, 
were the causes of long reveries and much recollection 
of scenes in more favoured lands. 

On the 16th we at last reached the southern 
extremity of the long sloping plain we had been 
marching over for five days. It terminates in a range 
of hills 7,800 feet high, where snow was still lying 
in large deep patches. When near the summit of the 
pass, a servant who had preceded us came galloping 
back with the news that a moufflon had been seen. 
As usual there was much excitement amongst us, 
and our ardour was shown in scaling the steep sides 
of mountain peaks and scrambling down precipices; 
as usual, too, the result was nil : none of us got 
even a sight of the animal we were all so ambitious 
of killing. In the afternoon we descended slowly to 
Dehbeed, the village of willows. Willows there were 
none, but there was something more joyous and 
grateful to an English eye — real genuine elastic green 
turf, clothing the banks of the numerous rills and 
streams which water the upland valley in which it 
stands. After traversing hundreds of miles of desert, 
and passing weeks in the saddle, a stroll on grass was 
most enjoyable. 

We were still slumbering next morning when the 
English Legation courier arrived from Tehran on his 
way to the Persian Gulf, and brought us news from 

Village of Willows — Plain of Pasargadce. 201 

England. It was six weeks or more old, to be sure, 
but then the last letter is always the best ; so we 
retarded our start by an hour or two to read letters 
and papers, and forget for a while poor desert 

The country was becoming at last a little less arid 
and desert as we proceeded southwards, and our march 
of twenty-eight miles on the 17th brought us to a 
plain where, around our manzil in the miserable 
village of Moorgab, there were clumps of brushwood 
composed of wild almond and terebinth bushes, and 
ponds of water sufficiently deep and sweet for frogs 
to croak in. Next day the change was still more 
striking and agreeable ; green had supplanted brown 
on the famous plain of Pasargadse, which lay before 
us environed by the circle of hills which, like a girdle 
of bulwarks, surrounds the site of the capital of the 
great Cyrus. As we cantered towards its ruins, our 
horses seemed to rejoice as much in feeling the level 
velvety turf under their hoofs as we did in discarding 
our spectacles and veils to look at it. 

The remains of Pasargadae have been described so 
often and so accurately, that more than a very few 
words about them would seem superfluous. I there- 
fore confine myself here, as well as later at Persepolis, 
to a very rapid sketch of the monuments which I 
examined. The first of them to attract the attention 
of the traveller coming from the north, is a terrace front 
about one hundred yards long, crowning the top of a 
mound ; it is more than thirty feet high, and built of 

202 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

huge masses of white marble, beautifully chiselled and 
joiued, and is supposed to have been the base of a build- 
ing in which the immediate successors of Cyrus were 
crowned. About half a mile south-eastwards of this 
mound, and on the plain, a large rectangular platform 
may still be traced above the soil ; of its superstruc- 
ture, probably a temple, there is but a single 
relic, a square pillar of marble fifteen feet high, 
bearing on one of its faces this simple inscription in 
cuneiform character — " I am Cyrus, the king, the 
Achsemenian." Below it is a bas-relief, representing 
a human figure in profile, dressed in a tight-fitting 
robe which descends from the neck to the feet ; on 
his head he wears a cap sitting close to the skull, and 
from it rise two horns, emblems of strength, support- 
ing an ornament which — to use an irreverent simile — 
looks like three English decanters in a row, with balls 
in the place of stoppers ; from his shoulders start 
four spreading wings, two on each side. The face is 
a good deal injured, but the feathers of the wings, a 
border of roses adorning the robe, and the carefully 
curled hair, all exquisitely chiselled, look as if they 
had left the sculptor's hands a few months instead of 
2,400 years ago. The whole figure is very imposing 
and expressive of calm dignified ease, without any 
of the stiffness of Egyptian sculptures. As to the 
person represented, it is argued that it cannot be 
Cyrus, since the inscription above it has been found 
repeated on unsculptured stones ; one traveller sup- 
poses it to be a Cherubim or Seraphim, and imagines 

Sculptures of Pasargadcc — Tomb of Cyrus. 203 

that the idea of it was taken from the descriptions of 
these beings in the Old Testament; the learned in 
these matters seem now to concur in thinking it is 
the tutelary deity or guardian angel of the king. 

Not far from it is the tomb of Cyrus, where we had 
ordered breakfast to be prepared. Arrian calls it " a 
house upon a pedestal," and this description gives 
the best idea of its form. The " pedestal," composed 
of immense blocks of white marble, rises like a pyramid, 
from a base forty-seven feet by forty-three, in seven 
steps of unequal height ; the " house " is a huge 
sarcophagus, of large slabs of the same material, with 
a pent-house roof and low gable- ends in front and 
rear : the whole edifice is thirty- six feet high. Inside the 
" house" is the chamber, a little more than six feet high, 
eleven long, and six and half broad, in which the body 
of Cyrus, inclosed in a golden coffin, was deposited. 
His epitaph, as recorded by Strabo, is perhaps the 
simplest and grandest that ever was written, and tells 
us, I think, more of the great conqueror's character than 
all that we can learn about it from the history of his ex- 
ploits : " man ! I am Cyrus, son of Cambyses, founder 
of the Persian empire, and sovereign of Asia ; there- 
fore grudge me not this sepulchre." For two hundred 
years no one grudged him his last home, but then 
came another great conqueror, whose serried phalanxes 
overcame the Persian hosts, and whose followers, 
insensible to the grand simplicity of these words, 
violated the tomb, carried off the body for the sake 
of the gold, and thus merited the stigmatic term of 

204 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

barbarian, which they applied to all the world but 
themselves. It is now empty, defaced with Arab 
inscriptions and blackened by the fires of wandering 
tribes ; but as we sat at our meal on the marble steps, 
we all felt that it would yet endure when all other 
structures we had seen in the country were reduced 
to dust. Persians call it Meshed-i Mader-i Suleiman, 
the Mosque of the Mother of Solomon, and attribute its 
origin to the wisest of kings; an error which need create 
no surprise, since many of their fanciful historians 
have committed the still grosser one of converting 
Alexander into a Persian under the name of Iskander. 
At a short distance from its base, there runs round 
it a wall, in which ancient and modern Persia are 
significantly indicated ; the former by the solid shafts 
of marble columns, the latter by the crumbling mud 
which fills the intervals between them. Beyond this 
is a caravansary, but otherwise the plain seemed unin- 
habited : complete solitude reigns around this the 
most ancient and interesting monument in Persia, 
and we were undisturbed in our comparisons between 
the past and the present, until the sun reached its 
meridian and gave us notice that it was time to 
move on, 

In an hour we quitted the turf and reached the 
entrance to a pass, the only approach to Pasargadae 
from the south, through which flows the Kurab or 
Water of Cyrus. It is so narrow that in many places 
there is not room between its perpendicular cliffs for 
both river and road, and the latter is carried along 

Excavated Road— Beautiful Valley. 205 

galleries cut in the rock — works of such magnitude 
that they are attributed to the golden age of Cyrus, 
and certainly cannot have been executed in recent 
times. Perhaps Alexander caused them to be made 
for the passage of his army in pursuit of Darius ? 

Issuing from this formidable defile we entered one 
of the most beautiful valleys in Persia. Picturesque 
rocks rose in fantastic forms into the bluest and purest 
of skies on each side, enclosing a level space thickly 
covered with terebinth bushes and wild peach and 
almond trees in full blossom, whilst pale green willows 
fringed the river's banks : rollers (a species of jay) and 
gorgeously-plumed fly- catchers swarmed in the balmy 
air, chasing brilliantly-coloured dragon- and butter- 
flies. The scene teemed with vegetable and animal life : 
from the dreary wintry wilderness we found ourselves 
all at once transported into the midst of the freshest 
beauties of spring. The effect of this transition on our 
spirits and sensations was far too agreeable to be 
described, but was not destined to be of long duration ; 
for tamer scenery soon succeeded, the trees and bushes 
disappeared and the hills receded, though we had still 
the green turf to ride over until the end of our day's 
march at the village of Kawamabad. It is a miser- 
able place ; so having much of interest before us, we 
left it at dawn on the 18th, and following our river of 
yesterday through a second gorge in the hills to 
Sivend, thence crossed a steep stony pass little fre- 
quented by travellers, and descended to breakfast 
under a blossoming apple-tree in the garden of the 

206 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

hamlet of Hadjiabad. Some miles farther on we got 
out of the hills and debouched on the plain in which 
stand the far-famed ruins of Persepolis and the tombs 
of Darius and Xerxes. 

The plain of Merdasht is about eighteen miles 
in breadth from north to south ; its length it is 
impossible to state, as, though bounded to the west, it 
has no other limit towards the east than the flat Salt 
Desert. Two rivers, the Bendemir and'Polvar, irrigate 
its soil, and in conjunction with its mild climate, render 
it the most productive district in the kingdom ; thus, 
both from its extent and fertility, it is well adapted for 
the site of the capital of a great empire. It would 
seem that these natural advantages were duly appre- 
ciated in the very early days of this world, since it is 
here that the great mythical heroes and demigods of 
Persian lore, Jemsheed and Eustem, performed those 
wonderful exploits which are still the theme of discourse 
amongst the inhabitants of the plain, and are com- 
memorated to this day in the Persian names of its 
principal monuments. The first of these monuments we 
visited is called Naksh-i-Eustem (Eustem's pictures), 
under which appellation are comprehended four royal 
tombs and several Sassanian bas-reliefs, situated in the 
north-western side of the plain near the point at 
which we entered upon it. The hills here rise in 
almost perpendicular masses of yellowish marble to a 
height of 300 yards, and it is on their faces that the 
monuments just mentioned are sculptured. 

The tombs are all so much alike, that only one — that 

Plain of Merdasht — Tomb of Darius. 207 

of Darius — need be described. Placing myself at a con- 
venient distance from the foot of the rock, I saw that 
its surface had been hewn into what may be described 
as the facade of a building in three compartments or 
stories, each about forty feet in height and fifty broad. 
The lowest or basement is simply a deeply and roughly- 
excavated surface. The first story, which is wider by 
several feet, represents a shallow portico, supported at 
each end by plain smooth pilasters and by four equi- 
distant columns in high relief: their capitals are 
formed of two half-bulls, and upon them rests a 
horizontal cornice richly sculptured. Between the two 
centre columns is a doorway ornamented with 
mouldings and a fluted architrave ; the upper half of 
the door is the rock sculptured into panels, the lower 
half alone having been excavated to give admittance to 
the tomb. Above the cornice of this story is the 
third compartment, representing a platform or throne 
raised on the heads of two tiers of captives in the 
posture of caryatides, fourteen in each tier. On the 
platform is the king standing before an altar on which 
burns the sacred fire, and above is an extraordinary 
figure in profile, like that of a man in a kilt, minus his 
legs and plus a pair of horizontal wings ; he wears a 
crown on his head, and holds a large ring in his left 
hand, and is supposed to be what Persians call a Feroher 
— Divine intelligence, or ministering spirit. On this 
supposition my simile of the kilt and wings is very 
much out of place, and another, radiating sunbeams 
in a petrified state, on which he is floating towards 

208 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

his protege, must be substituted. Above all there 
is a long inscription, repeated in three languages, 
and commencing in each with the words, "I am 
Darius." Having thus noted the exterior, we were of 
course anxious to see the inside, the object for which 
all this elaborate carving had been undertaken. This 
was no easy matter, and it was not until after several 
attempts that a peasant from one of the neighbouring 
villages succeeded in scrambling up over the flat 
surface of the basement to the entrance of the tomb. 
He had a rope with him, and, tying it round our waists, 
we followed one by one, with more ease. Creeping 
through the open part of the door, which is 4J feet 
high, we found ourselves in a dark chamber about 
11 feet high and 20 or 30 long. In it, and hewn out 
of the rock, were three sarcophagi : one was open and 
empty ; the others, covered with large slabs, are said 
to have never been used. 

The figures on all these tombs, which are within a 
few yards of each other, express dignity and calm 
repose. The Sassanian bas-reliefs, on the contrary, on 
the lower parts of the cliffs, are full of action and im- 
pulse. In the one, stately etiquette, regulating every 
motion and ornament, is the principal characteristic ; 
in the other, nature is predominant, and the movements 
of both horses and men are unconstrained and free. 
Their subjects are scenes from the lives of the two 
greatest monarchs of the Sassanian dynasty : one 
representing Sapor (a.d. 260) receiving the homage 
of the Roman Emperor Valerian ; and the four others, 

Bas-Rclief of Bahrain and his Wife.. 200 

various episodes in the romantic career of Bahrain Gour 
(a.d. 420). This sovereign, who received the appella- 
tion of Gour, from his excessive fondness for the chase 
of the wild ass — Gour being the Persian name of that 
animal — and from his having lost his life in its 
pursuit, is stated to have been the best prince of his 
race; and, to judge from one of these bas-reliefs, he 
was certainly, in one respect, in advance of his age. 
It is now half buried in rubbish which has fallen from 
the cliffs, and only the upper portion of its principal 
figures is consequently visible. They are Bahrain 
and his favourite wife ; he is represented with an 
abundance of long streaming locks, a beard and 
moustache, and as wearing a high, balloon-shaped 
diadem and a loose tunic, fastened at the waist by a 
belt ; she wears a crown likewise, has her hair 
arranged in long plaits falling over her shoulders, and 
a necklace of round stones on her breast, and is 
habited in a tight-fitting jacket attached with a single 
button, and a thin under-garment clinging to her 
limbs and secured at the waist by a girdle tied in a 
bow. With their right hands they hold between them 
a wreath, in token of the bond of love which united 
them ; and which must indeed have been a strong one, 
since under its influence Bahrain was induced so far to 
disregard the most deeply-rooted prejudice of his own 
and present times in the East, as to exhibit in effigy the 
charms of his own wife to the public gaze. 

Illustrative of the origin of this bas-relief is the 
following story, which has often been related by 


210 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia, 

writers on Persia, and is still current in the vicinity. 
Bahram was very proud of his skill in the chase, and, 
thinking his wife would like to witness his feats, one 
day took her out hunting. Arrived on the plain an 
antelope was descried at some distance asleep. The 
king drew his bow and fired ; the antelope, awakened 
by the passage of his arrow close to its ear, put its 
hind hoof to the spot to drive away the fly which it 
thought had been the cause of disturbance to its 
slumbers ; the king drew again, and pinned hoof and 
horns together. For this shot he naturally expected 
much praise from his wife, but to his inquiries as to 
her opinion, she quietly replied, " Practice makes 
perfect; " which so filled his soul with fury, jealousy, 
and disappointment, that he ordered her to be taken 
to the mountains and there abandoned to perish, 
Only half of this order was, however, obeyed, and, 
unknown to the king, she was allowed to retire to an 
obscure village, where she took up her abode in the 
upper chamber of a tower which could only be reached 
by ascending twenty steps. There she bought a young 
calf, and carried it daily up and down the stairs, in the 
hope that this exercise would increase her strength 
and beauty, which she still regarded as the property of 
the king. At the end of four years accident brought 
him one evening to the tower just as she was bearing 
the now full-grown cow in her arms. Astonished at 
such a display of strength on the part of a woman 
of apparently delicate form, he demanded to see her. 
She consented, on condition that he would come alone. 

Legend of Bahrain s Wife — Magian Fire-Temple. 211 

The gallant Bahram went at once, and began express- 
ing his admiration of what he had seen, when she 
begged him to curtail his praise ; " for," she added, 
raising her veil, " practice makes perfect.'' Eecog- 
nition was immediate, explanation followed, and the 
king was so convinced that love for him could alone 
have induced her thus to spend the long interval since 
he had seen her, that his love returned and she be- 
came again, and ever afterwards remained, his favourite 

Most of the bas-reliefs bear inscriptions in 
Greek and Pehlvi, and it is not unlikely that 
some of them are the work of Greek artists. The 
other objects of interest at Naksh-i-Kustem are a 
so-called Magian fire-temple and two altars. The 
temple stands at a short distance from the base 
of one of the tombs, and is a tower twenty-four feet 
square and thirty-five high, built of immense blocks of 
marble ; which, from the incisions running from one 
to the other, seem to have been originally clamped 
together with iron bars, though their size and weight 
are so great that this precaution might apparently 
have been dispensed with. Its lower half is solid. 
Above this, a door, to which there is at present no 
approach, admits into a small chamber just under the 
roof, which is composed of four enormous slabs. The 
great solidity of this building, and the smallness of its 
interior, are both in favour of the supposition that it 
was not a temple, but a sacristy or treasury, where 
the Magians kept the sacred fire and the vessels used 

212 Journey through the Caucasus and Per 

si a. 

in their sacrifices. Not many yards westwards are 
the altars, hewn out of a solid mass of rock projecting 
on to the plain, and approached by a low flight of 
steps. They are almost close together, and measure 
seven feet in height, and four and a half square at the 
base, tapering thence a little towards their tops, which 
are surrounded with parapets, and excavated in the 
form of fonts. There is every reason to believe that 
they date from the time of Ardashir, a.d. 223, if not 
from that of Darius. 

A scramble to the summit of the cliffs which 
contain the tombs, terminated our sight-seeing for the 
day. On their brink stands a solitary column of 
marble, and around it are several squares, like the 
floors of rooms, cut out of the rock, and alleged to be 
the platforms on which the funeral rites of the dead 
monarchs were performed. The view from this point, 
over vast ranges of naked lifeless hills behind us and 
the great green plain at our feet, was very fine ; but 
time to muse over the past glories and present solitude 
of the scene failed us, and at sunset we descended 
and rode away to our manzil, three miles eastwards, 
in the village of Kinareh. 

Notwithstanding the fertility of the region in which 
we now were, its agricultural population is as sparse 
and poor as in the less-favoured districts of the north ; 
a proof that other than natural causes are at work in 
bringing about the decline of Persia. Kinareh differed 
in no respect from our preceding quarters, and after 
a good night's sleep in one of its mud hovels, held 

Ruins of Persepolis. 213 

out as little inducement to rest and be thankful as any 
of them. We were, therefore, early on our way next 
morning towards Takht-i-Jemsheed, the throne of 
Jemsheed, as Persians now call the ruins of 

They are situated close under a high hill of naked 
brown marble, which projects considerably on to the 
plain from the range on its northern side, and, seen 
from a distance and measured by the surrounding 
scenery, are somewhat disappointing. On nearer 
approach, however, this feeling is obliterated, and, as 
soon as proportion and detail become visible, is 
succeeded by one of surprise and admiration. A 
terrace wall, nearly 500 yards long and thirty feet 
high, appears rising from the plain, and forms the 
western side of a large platform abutting on the hill- 
side. The marble blocks of which it is built — larger, 
perhaps, than any used in our finest edifices — are 
beautifully fitted together, and chiselled perfectly 
smooth. About 150 yards from its northern end, a 
double staircase, of such magnificent proportions that 
ten or twelve horsemen abreast can ride up its gentle 
ascent and wheel with ease on its landing-places, 
leads to the platform. The mechanical resources of 
the builders must have been very considerable, for, 
though the steps are little more than three inches 
high, they are above twenty feet long, and I counted 
no less than eleven of them hewn out of one block. 
Arrived on the platform, we found ourselves confronted 
by the headless forms of two colossal bulls, supporting 

214 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

the remains of an enormous portal ; they are admirably 
sculptured and proportioned and very similar to the 
Nineveh bulls in the British Museum. Their necks 
are adorned with collars of roses of elaborate execu- 
tion, and their flanks defaced with the names of many 
well-known travellers, Malcolm, Morier, &c, who 
might have found close at hand a thousand harmless 
places for thus commemorating their visits. Opposite 
to this first portal is another of the same size, likewise 
ornamented with bulls, looking directly towards the 
mountain. Here they are winged, and have human 
faces, now much mutilated, and crowned heads : they 
are especially interesting as being the only specimens 
in Persia of the conjunction of man and beast in the 
same animal. It does not appear that the bull ever 
received from the Persians the divine honours paid to 
him in Egypt ; but he was regarded by them as the 
truest symbol of power. In their mythology, he was 
the first animal created, and from his union with the 
moon, man and all other living creatures proceeded : 
hence, no doubt, the prominent position given him in 
these buildings. 

About sixty yards south of the portals stand the 
remains of the palaces of Darius, Xerxes, Artaxerxes, 
and Chehel Minar, or Forty Pillars, each on a separate 
terrace. The three former seem to have been built 
almost on the same model, and a description of the 
first of the three, as given by a recent writer,* will 

* Rawlinson's Ancient Monarchies. 

Eemains of the Palace of Darius. 215 

suffice for all : — "It is a building about 135 feet in 
length, and in breadth a little short of 100. ... It 
fronted towards the south, where it was approached 
by a double staircase, which led up to a deep portico 
of eight pillars, arranged in two rows. On either side 
of the portico were guard-rooms, which opened upon 
it. Behind the portico lay the main chamber, which 
was a square of fifty feet, having a roof supported by 
sixteen pillars, arranged in four rows of four, in line 
with the pillars of the portico. . . . The hall was sur- 
rounded on all sides by walls from four to five feet in 
thickness, in which were doors, windows, and recesses 
symmetrically arranged. The entrance from the portico 
was by a door in the exact centre of the front wall, on 
either side of which were two windows looking into 
the portico. ... At the back of the hall and at 
either side were chambers of very moderate dimen- 
sions. ... It seems probable that this palace was 
without any second story." 

Such was the original form of one of the earliest 
palaces of the world, as reconstructed in the heads of 
wise men from long study of its remains : viz. broken 
portions of the wall of the great hall, and several 
doorways, windows, and recesses. The jambs of most 
of these are ornamented with bas-reliefs of elaborate 
execution, representing a king, much larger than life, 
either walking, and followed by two attendants, the 
one shading his Majesty's head with a parasol, and 
the other driving away the flies with a fly-chaser ; or 
seated on a throne, placed on a lofty platform, which 

216 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

is raised on the heads of five tiers of warriors variously 
armed and costumed, ten in each tier ; or transfixing, 
with perfect nonchalance, a monster, half lion half 
bull, or half griffin half eagle, with a short two-edged 
sword. The features of many of the figures have 
been completely effaced, but in other respects time 
and weather seem to have had no effect on them. 
Indeed, except where man has taken the trouble to 
injure them, all the sculptures and bas-reliefs of these 
ruins look as if they had left the sculptor's hands a 
few years ago. 

Chehel Minar, the prototype of Chehel Sitoon at 
Ispahan, was probably an open-air hall, having 
porticos on three sides, and being completely open 
on the fourth. Each portico was supported by twelve 
columns, in two rows of six, whilst the roof of the 
hall rested on thirty-six columns in six rows ; the area 
covered by the whole building being 50,000 square 
feet. Of this forest of pillars there remain standing 
only thirteen. They are sixty feet high, accurately 
fiuted, and taper slightly upwards from bell-shaped 
bases, beautifully ornamented with pendent lotus- 
leaves, to capitals composed of two half bulls or two 
half griffins, with their heads looking in opposite 

The terrace on which the building stands is 
approached by the finest of the many fine staircases to 
be seen amongst these ruins. Its facades are covered 
with bas-reliefs so multitudinous and elaborate that 
drawings alone can give a correct idea of them. The 

Ruins of Chehcl Minar. 217 

principal subjects are gigantic Persian guards armed 
with spears and bucklers ; combats between colossal 
lions and bulls ; and long processions, interspersed 
with cypress-trees, of men, horses, camels, oxen, 
wild asses and rams, such as probably took place 
annually when the governors and satraps of the 
different provinces of the empire came up to the 
capital with their tribute and presents. A cuneiform 
inscription on one of its balustrades ascribes the 
building of this magnificent work to Xerxes. 

Around and about all these upright ruins, in which 
the blue rock pigeons now nest, lie recumbent pillars, 
broken shafts, and hundreds of massive blocks of 
sculptured marble half imbedded in the soil and the 
grass. For hours we wandered up and down amongst 
these silent remains of departed grandeur, — our 
thoughts reverting to the days when the magnificent 
Xerxes here held his court, and half Asia bowed at 
his feet ; or when the hardy veterans of Macedonia 
satiated their hatred of Persian arrogance by destroy- 
. ing his capital, and Alexander earned fresh favours 
from the beautiful Thais by burning his palace. At 
last we came to the three royal tombs, similar to 
those at Naksh-i-Rustem, which are cut on the surface 
of the hills overlooking the platform, and our wan- 
derings were interrupted in the abode of death by a 
reminder from the cook that life must be sustained, 
and that breakfast was ready. 

In the cool shade of the Great Bulls we lay down 
to our meal ; pilaus and chilaus, and cups of the best 

218 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

wine of Shiraz, were there to refresh us ; gentle zephyrs 
fanned us, and whilst between puffs of the fragrant 
tenibeckee we sat gazing up into the deep blue sky, 
and over the emerald green plain towards the 
grotesquely weird heights of Istakr, a village grey- 
beard regaled our ears with the history of the last of 
the many deeds of blood which these ruins have 

In Persian, as in European cities, there is a class 
of society whose members have no apparent profes- 
sion, or at best a very precarious one ; who live no one 
knows how, and are ever ready to create or take 
advantage of disorder and confusion for the purpose 
of satisfying their lusts by pillaging their neighbours. 
Kowdies, roughs, loafers, canaille, in the west ; in the 
east they take the name of lutees. Their principal 
occupations, if they have any, are those of athletes, 
jugglers, dancers, or tamers of monkeys, bears, and lions. 
They are a lawless, riotous, unscrupulous, anti-koranic 
set of vagrants, who, from their organization and the 
obedience which they pay to their elected chief the 
Lutee Bashee, are a frequent source of anxiety and 
trouble to governors and mayors. Some twenty years 
ago the Lutee Bashee of Shiraz resigned his func- 
tions, though he still retained his title ; and, by 
reforming his manner of life, and prudently investing 
in land and villages the money he had laid by, soon 
became respected and rich. After his retirement he 
lived as a loyal subject, a good Mussulman and a 
generous landlord, and became an influential person- 

Lutces — Story of the Lutee Bashee. 219 

age in bis native town ; where he, no doubt, hoped to 
end his days in peace. The people of Shiraz are 
particularly unruly and excitable, and, as had frequently 
happened in previous years, broke out into open riot 
in the winter of 1864. When the news reached the 
King's ears, he sent for the Mushir or mayor of the 
town, who happened to be then in Tehran. This 
man had a private feud with the Lutee Bashee, partly 
on account of the latter's influence and partly because 
his daughter looked with favour on the Lutee' s 
addresses ; so, when questioned as to the cause of the 
riot, he at once attributed it to his enemy. Upon 
this his Majesty requested the attendance of his uncle, 
who was about to proceed to Shiraz as Governor of 
the province of Fars, and exacted from him a pro- 
mise on oath that whenever or wherever he should 
first set eyes on the Lutee he would cause him to be 

The Prince Governor and Mushir had hardly left 
the capital when the riot was put down. Arrived on 
the plain of Merdasht they were met, according to the 
custom of the country, by the chief men of the town 
of Shiraz, who came out on their best horses and in 
their gayest costumes to welcome their new ruler. 
Amongst them was the Lutee Bashee, now consider- 
ably past middle age, mounted on a horse of such 
beauty that it attracted all eyes. The Governor saw 
it, and admired its paces so much that the owner at 
once dismounted, and requested his Highness to accept 
it. The request was granted, and the cavalcade 

220 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

moved on to the terrace of Persepolis, where the great 
man's tents were pitched. Half an hour later the 
Lutee Bashee was summoned to his presence. Proud 
of the honour thus shown him, and having no reason 
to suspect any danger, he hastened to obey the sum- 
mons. As he crossed the threshold of the tent, he 
heard his doom from the Prince's lips : " Seize him, 
and strangle him." The ferrashes fell on their victim 
and gagged him ; whilst the wretched man in vain 
made signs with his fingers that he would ransom his 
life with all his fortune. An oath had been sworn, 
and his worst enemy, the Mushir, was there to watch 
its performance ; a rope was cut from the tent fixings, 
and in another minute the Lutee was a corpse. 

This story was afterwards confirmed to me at 
Shiraz ; but, in justice to the Governor, I must add 
that, on finding from the inquiries he made that the 
Lutee was innocent of all participation in the riot, he 
at once caused all the murdered man's property, which 
lapsed to himself and the Crown, to be restored to his 

There's a bower of roses by Bendemir's stream, 

And a nightingale sings round it all the day long : 
In the time of my childhood 'twas like a sweet dream, 

To sit in the roses and hear the bird's song ; 
That bower and its music I never forget, 

But oft when alone in the bloom of the year, 
I think — is the nightingale singing there yet ? 

Are the roses still bright by the calm Bendemir ? 

It was not without some latent expectations of a 
pleasing nature that I thought of these queries, as, 

" Bendemirs Stream " — Source of the Roknabad. 221 

after leaving the ruins, we rode southwards towards 
the stream thus immortalized. I can answer them 
now with a negative, and honestly affirm my belief 
that neither roses nor nightingales have enlivened 
its banks for many a century : possibly never since 
the beauties of Persepolis came out to enjoy their 
perfume and song. The Bendemir is a river of 
considerable volume ; and as I looked at its muddy, 
turbid waters, now swollen by melted snow, flowing 
through their loamy grass-grown banks, I almost 
fancied myself back by the side of old Tiber, in the 
silent campagna and within sight of the outlying 
ruins of Kome. We crossed the river over a dilapi- 
dated stone bridge and entered the hills which bound 
Merdasht on the south ; after traversing, on a broken 
stone causeway, a swampy plain alive with thousands 
of wild duck and geese, white and blue herons and 
other aquatic birds, we reached Zergoon — a wretched 
village, situated in a narrow valley, amidst moun- 
tains of bare brown rock — where an execrable post- 
house, swarming with insects, was the only habitable 

Having felt hardly a drop of rain since leaving 
Tehran, a thorough wetting which we got next morn- 
ing was almost an agreeable surprise. A ride of four 
hours over a very bad road and through rugged hills, 
brought us to the source of the Koknabad, a stream 
famous, as Hafiz tells us, for the sweetness of its 
waters and the beauty of the gardens on its banks. 
Since his time the gardens have been abandoned, and 

222 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

the stream now runs at will over the stony path. A 
mile further on and we arrived at a narrow opening in 
the hills, through which we looked down on the plain 
of Shiraz and across its now green corn-fields to 
snow-capped mountains on its southern side. A short 
descent ensued, and we then entered a broad straight 
avenue about a mile long, and bounded on either side 
by gardens filled with cypresses, pomegranate-trees 
and roses. At its end was the gate of the city, and 
we thence made our way to the house of my hos- 
pitable friend the English telegraph officer of the 

( 223 ) 


Shiraz — Tombs of Hafiz and Saadi — March Southwards — 
Partridge- Shooting — Vale of Wild Almonds — Asylum — 
Passes of the Old and Young Woman — Ruins of Shapoor 
— Sculptures — Statue of Sapor — A Garden at Kazeroon 
— Environs of Shiraz — The Sword of the State — A 
Nomad Chieftain — Mirza Mahommed Beza. 

Shiraz, the capital of Fars, or Persia Proper, the 
kernel of the empire founded by Cyrus, is situated in 
a valley plain some twelve miles broad and twenty- 
five or thirty long, well cultivated and dotted with 
gardens in the vicinity of the town. It has no 
unsightly suburbs, and though there are of course 
many ruins and much dilapidation within its walls, 
vegetation comes right up to them, while the fresh 
April foliage of numerous large chenars scattered 
about in its different quarters, and the glitter of its 
green and blue domes, give it a brighter and more 
cheerful appearance than that of most ^Persian cities. 
The finest buildings are the mosques, the ark or 
citadel, and the bazaars. They date from the time of 
Kerim Khan, the founder of the Zend dynasty, which 
ruled Persia from 1753 to 1788 and made Shiraz the 
capital of the country, and are much more solidly 

224 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

built than those of Tehran; stone and kiln-burnt 
brick being their principal materials. If a country's 
history is to be read in the greater or lesser degree of 
solidity of its buildings, the decline of Persia is plainly 
visible in those of its successive capitals which I had 
seen and have sketched. At Pasargadae and Per- 
sepolis we saw nothing but huge blocks of marble ; 
at Ispahan, marble in less profusion, stone and kiln- 
burnt bricks ; at Shiraz, stone and a mixture of kiln- 
burnt and sun-dried bricks ; at Tehran, kiln-burnt 
brick is the exception, sun-dried bricks and mud being 
the rule. 

Founded soon after the Hegira (a.d. 622), there 
is little of note in the early history of Shiraz. It is 
principally interesting as having been the birthplace 
and residence of the poets Hafiz and Sheik Saadi, 
whose verses are in the mouths of all Persians. 
Hafiz sang much of the delights of love and wine, and 
described the beauties of nature in mellifluous strains. 
He was a man of soft words, and when Tamerlane 
besieged and took the town (a.d. 1380), so turned 
away the wrath of the fierce Mogul conqueror that the 
two became friends, and favourable conditions were 
granted to the townsmen. His tomb is about half a 
mile from the northern gate, in a neglected cemetery, 
where a large slab of semi-transparent alabaster, 
beautifully chiselled with extracts from his poems, 
covers his remains. Their custodian showed us 
an illuminated manuscript copy of his works, con- 
siderably dog-eared and soiled from being constantly 

Shiraz — Tomb of Hajiz and Saadi. 225 

handled by the Shirazees, who are wont to settle dis- 
puted points by a "fal" in its pages. Saadi lies 
buried three miles off, in a solitary romantic dell at 
the foot of the hills to the north of the plain, where 
a marble sarcophagus, in one corner of a garden of 
cypresses, contains his bones. His remains are care- 
fully guarded by one of his descendants, who gains a 
sorry livelihood by cultivating vegetables around them, 
and by exacting a small fee for the exhibition of a copy, 
about one hundred years old, of his ancestor's writings. 
Close by is an underground chamber, traversed by a 
stream of deliciously clear water, — a cool, quiet 
retreat, in which Saadi, no doubt, imbibed many of 
his moral precepts from the purity of the fountain, and 
is said to have written his best compositions. 

Excursions to these places, and a visit to the 
governor of the province, Sultan Ferhad Mirza, occu- 
pied the two days of our stay. It was beginning to 
get warm, and we thought it prudent to push on as 
fast as possible to Bushire, where my companions had 
telegraph business to transact, in order to be able to 
leave it again before the great heats set in. So, 
on the understanding that we should give ourselves 
several days' rest at Shiraz on our return journey, we 
set forth again southwards on the afternoon of the 
24th of April, and had a moonlight ride of twelve 
miles to the village of Chenarahdar, and the latest of 
dinners, at 11 p.m., in its comfortless caravansary. 

Next day our stage of twenty miles to Khonehse- 
nion lay through a pretty country, a foreground of 


226 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

undulating slopes covered with wild almond and thorn 
trees and coarse grass, backed by high snow-capped 
mountains. About four miles before reaching our 
manzil we crossed the Karagatch, a swift stream of 
considerable volume. Sending on our horses with 
the servants, we here shouldered our guns and went 
in search of game. Hares and red-legged partridges 
abounded, and a fair bag was made. The afternoon 
was very hot, and, on arriving at the caravansary, a 
large bowl of the very best of Persia's dairy products 
was a most welcome sight. In the language of the 
country it is called Maust,* and is a species of curded 
milk, so light and delicately soured that large quanti- 
ties of it can be indulged in without harm. Eaten 
with dates — not the hard indigestible fruit known in 
England by that name, but juicy masses which almost 
melt in one's mouth — it is the staple food of the 
inhabitants of the Gherm-i-sir (warm region) and 
most delicious ; whilst mixed with water it forms a 
drink called dukh, which slakes thirst better perhaps 
than any other liquid, tea alone excepted. 

Just as we were retiring to bed, our servants came to 
report that a regiment of soldiers had arrived and de- 
manded admittance to the caravansary, informing us at 
the same time that if the demand were granted they 
could not be responsible for the safety of our effects. The 
porter was thereupon summoned and told to exclude 
the new comers ; he declared his readiness to do so, 

* Better known, perhaps, to travellers in the East under its 
Turkish name, Yaourt. 

Persian Soldiers — Vale of Almond- Trees. 227 

but observed that the sirteeb, or major of the regiment 
threatened to enter by force unless the doors were 
opened to him. Negotiation became necessary under 
these circumstances, and the major was invited to a 
parley. He was at first highly indignant at our enter- 
taining suspicions as to the honesty of the Shah's 
soldiers, and swore by his beard and the head of Ali 
that his men were the most honest fellows in the 
world; but as he refused to be held responsible for 
any robbery or disorder which might take place during 
the night, it was impossible to yield to his demands. 
A compromise was finally agreed to by all parties, to 
the effect that the soldiers should bivouac elsewhere, 
but that he and his officers might take up their 
quarters within the building. 

On the 26th we alternated our march between 
riding and shooting. The road lay through very 
hilly ground, much cut up with deep ravines, and 
covered with a low jungle of terebinth-trees. In 
their shade were gorgeous masses of lilies, white, 
yellow, and red, hyacinths and geraniums. Partridges 
swarmed, and in our walk of two or three hours some 
fifteen brace were bagged. Towards evening we 
ascended a steep pass, from the top of which there is 
a beautiful view southwards into the vale of wild 
almond-trees; Dasht-i-Arjeen (its Persian name) is 
about ten miles long and four or five broad, and is so 
shut in on all sides by perpendicular crags and lofty 
mountains, that the streams which descend into it find 
no exit, and form a lake of considerable size at its 

228 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

southern extremity. This abundance of water, which 
never fails even in seasons of drought, keeps the turf 
with which the basin of the valley is carpeted, per- 
petually green. " Iran hemeen est," such is Iran, 
travellers coming from the thirsty south are invariably 
told when they first come in sight of this verdant 
plain : if credulous enough to believe their guides for 
a moment, their expectations of seeing a continuation 
of this scenery will soon be wofully disappointed as 
they go northwards, and each step in that direction 
will teach them to accept Persian descriptions of their 
country, or indeed of anything else, with many grains 
of salt. At the foot of the pass we found our quarters 
prepared in the house of the Kedkhoda of the most 
miserable village I had yet seen. As a compensation 
for its discomfort, how r ever, fresh-made butter, a luxury 
which none of us had enjoyed since leaving Europe, 
was laid before us by our host. He was a great 
sportsman, and told us many stories of his lion-hunts ; 
showing us, in proof of his veracity, a terrible wound 
he had received in one of them. He had killed one 
male lion, he said, the previous year, and two others 
were known to be at that moment in the neighbour- 
hood ; he and his villagers, who, as usual, came in 
the evening to stare at us and our arms, pressed us 
much to stay and help them to kill them. 

As we rode away next morning we passed at a 
short distance from the village, the source of one of 
the streams which water the valley. It issues from 
the base of a high perpendicular mass of rock, and is 

Privilege of Asylum. 229 

believed by the natives to have been confined within 
the bowels of the mountain until Moses visited the 
spot and there performed his well-known miracle. 
Above it is a cave which Ali is alleged to have 
frequented before his birth, and where a mark in 
the stone floor is shown as the print of his horse's 
hoof. The visits of two such exalted personages have 
naturally rendered the place a very sacred one, and, 
accordingly, a small square building which stands 
close by, shaded by weeping willows, is endowed with 
the privilege of " bust " or asylum. Once within its 
walls, the greatest of criminals is safe from all pur- 
suit : his pursuers can of course surround the build- 
ing, cut off all supplies, and thus force the fugitive to 
choose between death by famine or surrender, but on 
no account can they enter it. Thanks to this privi- 
lege, which is accorded to many places in Persia— to 
the principal mosques, for instance, and to the stables 
of the king and of men of distinction — many an inno- 
cent person escapes persecution, and many a guilty 
one, I dare say, death ; for once in " bust," his friends 
have time to use their influence in his favour, to bribe 
a little here and promise more there : in short to 
save him, if he can be saved. 

The plain was perfectly alive with wild-fowl of all 
sorts, amongst them great numbers of Brahmini 
ducks, and as we neared the lake, we saw a large wild- 
boar coming up across our path towards the cover on 
the hill-sides. Chase was at once given, and after a 
long gallop my companions had shots at him from 

230 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

their horses ; he went away, however, unhurt, snapping 
like whipcord the telegraph wires, which happened 
to be on the ground. A terrible thunderstorm put 
a stop to further pursuit and obliged us to seek shelter 
in a solitary square building of mud, the only one 
visible. Having gained admittance within its walls, we 
found it was a sort of penfold in which the cattle and 
sheep were housed at night for protection against lions 
and panthers. Its inmates, several unveiled females, 
were most hospitable ; one of them was very pretty, 
somewhat like an Italian peasant-girl. She wore a very 
peculiar ornament — an ancient silver coin attached, 
like a bit of white sticking-plaster, to the left side of 
her nose ; in answer to my inquiries she said she had 
worn it ever since she was a child, and that it was the 
custom of the district so to do. A necklace of similar 
coins round her neck took my fancy very much, and 
whilst she served us with curds and honey, I spared 
neither complimentary words nor offers of gold to 
induce her to part with it; but she refused to sell 
what was evidently an heirloom, and when the storm 
cleared off we bade her good-by without coming to a 
bargain, and rode on to the end of the valley. 

Hence a rough steep path ascends to the 
southernmost edge of the great table-land, which 
is here 7,200 feet above the sea-level, and from this 
point the road to the Persian Gulf is carried down a 
series of the most precipitous passes in the world. 
Looking from it we saw, 3,000 feet below us, a 
narrow valley bounded to the south by a range 

Precipitous Passes — Forest Trees. 231 

of hills parallel with those on which we were, and 
jagged like the teeth of a saw ; beyond it was a 
second range lower than the first, and then another 
and another, until the eye lost itself in the hazy 
atmosphere of the flat region bordering the Gulf. An 
idea of the steepness of this descent may perhaps be 
best formed by imagining a gigantic staircase, the steps 
of which are from 1,800 to 3,000 feet high and half-a- 
mile broad. We were now on the edge of the first of 
them, and before descending its almost perpendicular 
face, halted a moment or two to look at the new region 
we were about to enter. The hill on which we stood, 
and all those to the south of us, were covered with 
trees ; those on the same level with ourselves were 
completely leafless ; a few hundred feet lower down 
they were budding ; on the ridges opposite to us and 
in the valley at our feet they were luxuriantly green. 
And yet it was not a forest that we saw ; for the trees, 
almost all gallnut-bearing oaks, were not in tangled 
confused masses, but stood separately at convenient 
distances from each other, as if they had been planted 
in measured rows or been thinned with constant care. 
Whether it be that the soil is unequal to producing 
thickets, or that these particular oaks are intolerant of 
greater mutual proximity, I know not ; but there they 
stand in formal lines, like the olive-trees on the slopes 
of Fiesole or the mulberry- trees on the plains of 
Lombardy, and constitute the only semblance of a 
forest between Tehran and the Persian Gulf, a distance 
of 650 miles and more. 

232 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia, 

Kottel-i-pyr-i-zan, the Old Woman's Pass, is the 
name of the first of the giant steps. The roughest of 
paths, zigzagging amongst enormous boulders of 
detached rock, leads down its steep side to a platform 
1,500 feet from the top, on which stands the solid 
caravansary of " Myan Kottel " (half the hill), where 
we were to pass the night. In the short space of one 
hour, the time occupied by our descent, we had passed 
from winter to summer. The trees around our 
quarters were in full foliage; the swallows, of which 
I counted no less than forty- one nests in the spacious 
gateway, were already hatching their eggs ; the air 
was warm and balmy, and the sunset was resplendent 
with colours which even a Turner could not reproduce. 

On the following morning we descended to the 
narrow valley, and rode along its level ground in a 
westerly direction through luxuriant crops of wheat, 
already bursting into ear, for about five miles; then turn- 
ing southwards, through a chasm in the range of hills 
we had seen opposite to us the day before, and leaving 
behind us the strip of oak forest, we reached the edge of 
the second step, Kottel-i-duchter, the Daughter's Pass. 
Youth generally receives greater attention than age, 
and the young lady would seem to have been much 
more admired than her aged neighbour, for her Pass is 
actually graced with a made road, paved in the 
steepest places and protected in the dangerous ones 
by stone parapets : the first work of the sort I had seen 
outside a Persian town. It is, perhaps, even more 
precipitous than the Old Lady's Pass, being carried 

The Daughter's Pass — Fertile Plain of Kazeroon. 233 

for 1,000 feet or more down the face of a rock as 
perpendicular as the Gemmi, and thence through a 
steep rugged ravine, studded at rare intervals with 
wild fig and almond trees, to the entrance of the plain 
of Kazeroon. The heat was becoming inconvenient, 
and on arriving at the bottom of the descent a clear 
babbling brook, issuing from the base of a roadside 
crag and filled with young watercresses, was a most 
refreshing sight. The crag is called Takht-i-Timur, 
the Throne of Timur, from a rough bas-relief sculptured 
on its face representing that individual, one of Futteh 
Ali Shah's numerous progeny, sitting apparently in 
amicable converse with a lion. In its shade, breakfast 
awaited us, at which cresses were a luxury highly 
appreciated ; we then rode on for seven miles to the 
village of Kazeroon, a wretched place inhabited by a 
tribe called the Mamaceni, who are said to be the 
most accomplished thieves in the country. 

Although 2,800 feet above the sea, the plain of 
Kazeroon is within the limits of the Gherm-i-sir, or 
warm region. In form it is like hundreds of other 
Persian plains, long and narrow ; the hills, too, which 
surround it are of the usual type, arid and brown ; but 
the level ground, which is excessively fertile, being 
irrigated by natural streams and favoured by the most 
genial of climates, is covered with the most brilliant 
and luxurious vegetation. On its grassy prairies, the 
oleander, the myrtle and locust-tree grow wild ; 
masses of variegated stocks and petunias, lupins, 
irises, geraniums, ranunculus and convolvulus mingle 

234 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

their bright glowing colours with the green of fennel, 
wild rhubarb, artichoke, and the liquorice-plant ; 
whilst interspersed amongst fields of waving corn are 
patches of scarlet, lilac, and white poppies. Lighted 
up by the sun, the scene was like the richest of 
Persian carpets intensified in colouring and beauty, 
as we rode through it next morning for ten miles to 
the village of Direez. There we were to halt for a 
couple of days' shooting and a visit to the ruins of 
Shapoor, and there I was to part, for some time, 
with my companions. The heat continued increas- 
ing each step we took southwards, and I became 
afraid of a return of the illness from which I had been 
suffering if I ventured into the furnace-like tempera- 
ture of Bushire ; I therefore reluctantly abandoned 
my project of descending to the bottom of the Giant 
Staircase and having a look at the sea. The steps 
which I thus missed seeing were described to me as 
being quite as formidable as those we had descended. 
At their foot, a sandy plain some forty miles in breadth 
extends to the Persian Gulf, the whole distance from 
the point where we were being over seventy miles. 

Direez is such an abominable place, and its inhabi- 
tants have such a reputation for lawlessness and 
villany, that to avoid entering its walls we had brought 
with us a comfortable double-walled tent, which we 
found pitched on the banks of a stream about a mile 
from the village. Half-a-dozen Tofengchees, men 
armed with long muskets and big knives — devil-me- 
care, wild-looking fellows, whose features entirely 

Direez and its Tofeugchees — Black Partridges. 235 

justified the reputation they have acquired from the 
frequency of robberies and murders on this portion of 
the king's highway — soon came out from it to offer 
their services as guards and guides to the best coverts. 
There were, they said, plenty of wild-boar in the 
neighbourhood, and we were sure to have good sport ; 
so we each took a beat, and marched off with a couple 
of these gentry. Their promises, as usual, turned out 
illusory ; for, on meeting again in the evening, the 
result of a hot afternoon's work was that one pig had 
been fired at, and that we had killed half-a-dozen 
francolins — derraj in Persian, and known to English- 
men under the name of black partridges. They are a 
good deal larger than the ordinary partridge, and are 
only found in hot countries; on the banks of the 
Tigris and in the neighbourhood of Baghdad they are 
so plentiful that I have heard of eighty brace being 
shot in a day. The male bird is of a beautiful brown 
chocolate-colour, spotted, like a guinea-fowl, with 
white, and has a deep orange beak and legs, and a 
very peculiar call. Its flesh resembles in colour that 
of a grouse, and has a disagreeably aromatic taste. 

Disappointed in my expectations of game, I deter- 
mined to pass the next day in the ruins of Shapoor, 
and in visiting a cavern in the mountain, some eight 
or nine miles off, which contains the only statue in 
the country ; and accordingly started at seven in the 
morning with a mounted servant and several Tofeng- 
chees, who, in keeping up with my horse, showed 
themselves as agile on their feet as Scotch gillies. 

236 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

The city of Shapoor built by Sapor the First, in 
commemoration of the battle of Edessa (a.d. 260), in 
which he vanquished the armies of Rome and took the 
Emperor Valerian prisoner, covered a large space of 
ground on the banks of the river Tab, about four 
miles from our camp. A round arch, and a building, 
half buried in the soil, which my guides called " Sar-i- 
gaw," the bullock's head, from a sculptured stone 
representing the head of a horned animal on the top 
of one of its four walls, are the only remains still 
standing. To judge from their solid masonry and the 
hardness of their cement, it seems probable that 
Roman captives had a hand in their construction. In 
other respects the site of the city is only distinguish- 
able by extensive mounds of loose stones and broken 
foundations ; we threaded our way amongst them for a 
mile or two, until we reached a narrow gorge in the 
hills on the north-west side of the plain, where there 
is just sufficient space for river and road to pass 
between two tall cliffs. On these the exploits of Sapor 
are recorded in a number of bas-reliefs, four on one 
side of the river and two on the other, in the same 
style as the Sassanian reliefs of Naksh-i-Rustem, but 
more highly-finished. The submission of Valerian 
forms the subject of most of them : the Persian 
monarch, crowned and magnificently dressed, is 
mounted on a richly-caparisoned charger, which 
tramples on a corpse ; above him a winged figure 
appears bearing towards him a crown of victory ; the 
Roman emperor kneels before him, bareheaded and in 

Bas-Eeliefs of Sapor — The Emperor Valerian. 237 

the posture of a suppliant ; and guards and soldiers 
carrying trophies fill up the sides and background. 
The fate of Valerian was a bitter one ; for, though 
doubts may be entertained as to the truth of the 
tradition according to which Sapor used to place his 
foot on his prisoner's neck whenever he mounted his 
horse, and caused his skin after death to be stuffed 
with straw and exhibited in the most-frequented 
temple of the country, it is quite certain that the 
emperor lingered out the rest of his life in captivity. 

Below the sculptures, and on the right bank of the 
stream, is a small aqueduct about two feet broad, hewn 
out of the rock, which formerly conveyed, probably to 
the king's palace, the waters of a copious spring which 
issues from the base of the cliffs about two hundred yards 
further up the gorge. This, too, is in all probability 
the result of Roman skill, since remains of aqueducts 
are seldom found amongst ruins of exclusively Persian 
origin of this date ; and, in this instance, an abundant 
supply of water was procurable, without this artificial 
and expensive conduit, from the river which traversed 
the city from end to end. 

Beyond the gorge is a circular valley, three or 
four miles in diameter, shut in by an amphitheatre of 
stupendous rocks ; and high up in its north-western 
angle is the cavern I had come to visit. Leaving my 
horse at the foot of the ascent, I and my Tofeng- 
chees toiled up the steep hill-side, until after an hour's 
hard work we reached the base of a cliff so nearly 
perpendicular that further progress appeared almost 

238 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

impossible. My guides, however, intimated that up 
its nude slippery face we must go ; and, after divesting 
myself of my boots, by their advice, up we clambered, 
holding on as much with our feet as with our hands, 
and, with some little risk and a good deal of diffi- 
culty, attained the object of my desires. Entering 
the cavern we found ourselves in a large natural hall, 
in the centre of which are two gigantic feet, a yard 
and a half in length, on a roughly-hewn pedestal ; 
alongside, with its thighs resting on the pedestal and 
its head half buried in sand, is the equally gigantic 
statue of Sapor; the features, adorned with a close- 
cut beard and the abundance of flowing locks 
common to all Sassanian sculptures, are much defaced ; 
round the neck is a necklace, and the body is clothed 
in a tight-fitting tunic, secured by a girdle and 
shoulder-belts ; the legs, from above the knees, are 
wanting, and the arms are broken off at the elbows : 
in its present condition the statue is thirteen feet 
high, and seven feet in girth round the waist. 

This, as I have said before, is the only known 
statue of ancient Persia, and is presumed to be Sapor 
from its resemblance in dress and detail to his figure on 
the bas-reliefs ; it must have been chiselled on the 
spot where it now lies, and from a block of stone cut 
out of the cavern ; but why it should have been hidden 
away in a place which is almost inaccessible, no one 
knows. Engraved on its legs are the names of 
Eawlinson 1831, and Hyde 1821, as well as two 
others which I could not make out. 

Vast Cavern — A Storm. 239 

The hall just described is only a vestibule ; 
beyond it the cavern becomes enormous, and its 
dimensions and gloom were vastly increased by the 
nickering light of the tapers we had brought with us. 
In two or three places its sides have been worked into 
flat panels, and several tanks hewn out of the rocky 
floor prove that it was once made use of. After 
inspecting these, my guides offered to take me I don't 
know how far down into the bowels of the earth, to a 
deep lake which they said was full of fish ; but the 
wildness of the place, its semi-obscurity, and the 
thought that, though I had a revolver, I was only one 
against three, who certainly looked as if they were 
capable of anything, induced me to decline their offer. 
Keturning to the open air, I mounted my horse and 
cantered back to my friends, who were to start for 
Bushire the same evening. Soon after their de- 
parture a violent storm came on, and put my tent- 
ropes and pegs to a severe test. The circumstances 
attending the death of a grandson of Sapor, who was 
suffocated under the folds of his royal marquee, re- 
curred to my mind ; so to avoid a similar fate and be 
prepared as far as possible for all emergencies, I 
went to bed with a large knife under my pillow, 
in addition to a revolver, which was the constant 
companion of my slumbers. 

The 1st of May dawned cloudless and bright. 
The rain of the previous night had cleared the atmo- 
sphere and refreshed the flowers aud grass. Left to 
my own resources, the remembrance of a garden 

240 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

which had charmed me as we passed hurriedly through 
it two days before, enticed me back to Kazeroon. This 
garden was two or three acres in extent, and surrounded 
by walls high enough to keep out intruders and ensure 
privacy ; within them were the coolest shade, the 
most brilliant colouring, the sweetest of perfumes, 
and the softest of nature's music. Tall graceful date 
palms waved their feathery branches aloft in the 
bluest of skies, gently fanning dark still groves of 
orange and lemon trees laden with golden fruit; 
below and amongst them were thickets of pomegranate- 
bushes, bright with their rich scarlet waxen flowers, 
and endless quantities of blooming roses and jasmine ; 
the soft balmy air was luxuriously redolent with 
fragrant odours of orange-blossom and attar, and 
filled with the sweet warbling of nightingales and the 
soft cooing of turtle doves. In the centre, and 
approached by grassy avenues and long bowers of 
sweet lime-trees, stood a ruined kiosk and a broken 
fountain ; there, in the checkered shade, my carpet was 
spread and my bed stretched : for, once within these 
fairy walls, why should I leave them ? Was not this a 
spot where wintry cold, burning sun, dreary desert, 
the whole world outside, might be forgotten ? Was 
there not here the beauty, the quiet, the contentment 
of Paradise ? What was wanting ? The sympathetic 
love of the fair Eve, whom most men search for, but 
few find : whom the most fortunate find in time, the 
most unfortunate, too late. 

Dreaming of her, perhaps, but certainly dreaming, 

A Garden at Kazeroon — Tribe of Nomads. 241 

three days and nights sped quickly away. At early 
dawn I rode out sometimes to watch the natives 
scraping particles of oblivion from the poppies, or 
gathering bushels of rose-leaves from the rose-beds ; 
at eventide I strolled forth to look towards the bound- 
less west at the setting sun ; but my garden ever 
enticed me back within its enchanted walls, until one 
night the last cold breeze of the season silenced the 
warblers, dispersed the perfume, and awoke me from 
my dreams. I ordered my horses and rode away 
towards Shiraz. But though the spell was thus broken, 
often and often I think of the garden of Kazeroon, 
as of one of the sweetest spots I have known. 

Little of interest occurred on my march, which 
was broken by frequent halts wherever fancy dictated 
or game seemed abundant. On the Old Lady's Pass, 
I came up with some of the Shah's artillery, two six- 
pounders, which twelve horses and eighty men were 
slowly dragging up the hill by main force. Their 
wheels were the first I had seen in Persia, and the 
unusual sight caused all the beasts of my caravan to 
shy terribly. The harness for the horses was Euro- 
pean and provided with blinkers, the use of which 
was evidently unknown to the drivers, for instead of 
being alongside the horses' eyes, they were either 
dangling about their mouths or caressing their ears. 

Next day we joined a tribe of Nomads making for 
their summer pastures. The men looked hardy and 
wiry ; the women, who eschew veils, had ugly weather- 
beaten features, showing signs of exposure and hard 


242 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

work. Before them, they drove endless flocks of 
sheep and goats, and long strings of cows, camels, 
horses, mules, and asses, on which were tied and 
strapped in promiscuous confusion lambs, kids, and 
children ; black tents, pitchers and caldrons ; cocks 
and hens; greyhounds, lamed on the march, clothes 
and carpets — a long procession, reminding one of 
Israel's exodus. In May these people tramp up to 
the Sirhad; in September or October they descend 
again to the Gherm-i-sir, occupying each year districts 
in both regions to which the use of centuries has 
given them prescriptive rights. I left them to re-enter 
the gates of Shiraz on the evening of the 7th of May. 
On the hills to the north of the town are several 
objects of interest : the remains of a building, called 
Takht-i-Aboo Nesser, which, from the size of the 
stones employed in it, and the style of its sculptured 
portals, is evidently of the same date as the ruins of 
Persepolis ; a series of Sassanian bas-reliefs, of inferior 
execution to those we have already seen, at a place 
called Naksh-i-Burmedillek ; and the well of Ali— 
Chah-i-Murtesir Ali — a limpid spring in a cool grotto, 
hewn out of the rock some forty feet below the surface 
of the soil. Close to it a recluse inhabits a hovel 
under the shade of a solitary cypress, and draws water 
for the pilgrims who come to drink ; and not far off 
are two other wells, of unknown origin, sunk through 
the rock, like the shafts of a mine, into the bowels 
of the mountain. I dropped pebbles down both ; in 
one, three and a half, in the other six, seconds elapsed 

Antiquities near Shiraz — Persian Titles. 243 

before I heard their splash. Visits to these places, 
and the beautiful gardens of Bagh-i-no (new garden), 
Taklit-i-Kajar (throne of the Kajars), and Chehel Ten 
(forty Dervishes), occupied my mornings and even- 
ings ; in the daytime it was already too w r arm to stir 
much abroad. My chief resources were then books and 
the conversation of a Swedish doctor, the only 
European in the town, who complained bitterly of the 
difficulties he experienced in obtaining his fees even 
from the richest of his patients. On one occasion a 
considerable sum was due to him from a very wealthy 
man, whose wife he had attended through a long and 
dangerous illness ; the bill was sent in over and over 
again, and payment was as often promised — and 
deferred. At last the doctor asked his client how he, 
a man of high standing in society, could so sys- 
tematically break his word ; the Persian noble 
replied, with a significative shrug of the shoulders, 
" I am not a European." 

A week after my return to Shiraz, my companions 
arrived from Bushire minus a mule-load of traps which 
had been carried off by highway-men, and on the 
following morning we paid a visit to Sultan Ferhad 
Mirza, governor of the province and uncle to the King. 
Most Persian dignitaries have sonorous titles : the 
master of the court ceremonies is called " The Sup- 
port of the Kingdom ; " the minister of agriculture, 
" The Arms of the State ; " and he of pensions, " The 
Confidence of the Empire." Sultan Ferhad's title 
is "Hissam-i-Sultaneh," the Sword of the State, an 

244 Journey through the Caucasus and Pcrsi 


appellation which he is said to have justly earned by 
an unscrupulous use of this weapon in keeping the 
Shah's subjects in order. He received us with the 
stately courtesy and urbanity which distinguish, or can 
be assumed by, Persians of rank ; and, though pro- 
bably as sensitive as the rest of his countrymen to the 
fatigue of sitting on anything else than a carpet or 
cushion, did us the honour of ordering four chairs to 
be brought, and, seating himself on one of them, 
requested us to follow his example. The robbery was 
the first topic of conversation. The Prince said he 
well knew that the road to the south was infested with 
brigands ; his predecessor had been too lenient with 
these people, and he himself had not yet had time to 
restore order, but, Inshallah, please God, he would 
soon do so. He exemplified his proposed treatment 
of the miscreants, if he caught them, by telling us 
that when on a previous occasion he had been named 
governor of this province, he had inaugurated his 
reign by causing twenty-four highwaymen to be 
executed at once on the maidan of the town. This 
act, he said, had inspired a very wholesome terror, 
and rendered government easy for a time ; but the im- 
pression had worn off, and he added, with rather a fero- 
cious chuckle, he must repeat it ere long. Altogether 
he seemed a bloodthirsty old gentleman, and talked of 
strangulation and mutilation with the utmost indiffer- 
ence, and as the only means of keeping his turbulent 
people quiet. Changing the subject to Europe, he 
asked many questions about inventions, especially about 

Visit to Sultan Ferhad — His Conversation. 245 

watches and chronometers, and then told us, with much 
animation, various anecdotes of his own country and 
its different dynasties. Aga Mahommed Khan, the 
first of the Kajars, was a great king, he said — a man of 
iron will and character, and a thorough soldier. One 
day, during a campaign against Kussia, he found his 
nephew and successor preparing to lie down on a 
luxurious bed which his servants had prepared for him 
on a hill- side; enraged at such a want of warlike 
spirit in one of his own blood, Aga upbraided him to 
his heart's content, and then kicked bed and bedding 
down the hill. Kerim Khan, too, the founder of the 
Zend dynasty, came in for his meed of the Prince's 
praise : in Kerim's time there was justice in Persia, 
he remarked. One of his ministers having informed 
him that a poor man, in digging a well, had found 
a considerable sum of gold, insinuated that it must 
at once be taken from him. " No," said Kerim; 
" why should I deprive the poor fellow of that which 
God has given him. Let him keep it." That was a 
noble answer. Now, he added, treasure-trove was not 
only taken from the finder, but he was generally beaten 
and imprisoned for not giving up more than he had 

The third round of tea, coffee, and pipes, the 
usual signal that a visit has lasted long enough, had 
already been served, but the Prince still retained us ; 
and it was not till after he had shown us over a 
number of chambers, and a domed bath lined with 
slabs of a beautiful greenish species of alabaster, that 

246 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

he dismissed us, with the expression of a hope that 
we would come and see him again. 

When criticising the regime under which they live, 
Orientals are generally more apt to allow their opinions 
to be inferred than to give them free expression. The 
anecdotes and conversation, at this and subsequent 
interviews, of the Sword of the State, all led to the 
inference that he considered that under the rule of 
his nephew Nasreddeen his countrymen had become 
both unjust and effeminate. That they had not 
become more honest was disagreeably evident to us ; 
for we had hardly left the Governor's presence when 
another robbery, of which my friends were the victims, 
was reported. Their Peeshkedmet, who, as is usual in 
Persia, was entrusted with the purse and payment of 
all accounts, had that morning sent a Ferrash to fetch 
from his house a sum of about 251. As the man did 
not return within a reasonable time, he himself went 
to his home, and learning there from his wife that the 
money had been given to the messenger, at once 
concluded that he had decamped with it. Information 
was given to the police, and diligent search was made 
during three days for the culprit. On the fourth he 
was discovered, in a nude state, within the precincts 
of a mosque ; which, by the Governor's orders, were 
strictly guarded until hunger obliged him to surrender. 
He at once confessed the robbery, but stated that, in 
endeavouring to escape to a neighbouring Village, he 
had been pillaged by Eeliauts, who had despoiled him 
of the money and his clothes, and left hirn in the 

Robbery and its Punishment — The Eelkhaneh. 247 

naked condition in which he was found. Giving 
credence to this statement would have been tanta- 
mount to resigning all hope of recovering the money 
— the last thing the Peeshkedmet, or, indeed, any 
other Persian, could make up his mind to. So he 
set his brains and ingenuity to work to extract further 
confessions. Promises of pardon and threats of 
mutilation were tried in turn, until the prisoner, 
overmatched in the cunning game, was induced to 
avow that the Eeliauts had only taken half the money, 
and to indicate the spot where the rest of it was 
buried. Having once made this false move, it is 
needless to add that his opponent, by a judicious 
application of stick, soon made him produce the whole 
sum. As a punishment for his crime, the Governor 
sentenced him to be bastinadoed in the courtyard of 
our house and in our presence. I have already de- 
scribed the fellek and chub, and need only add that 
the spectacle of their application is one to be avoided. 
The person next in importance to the Governor 
is the Eelkhaneh, or Lord of the Kashkai tribe of 
Eeliauts, which numbers above 25,000 black tents, 
and our second visit was to him. Though obliged by 
the government to live at Shiraz, as a hostage for the 
good behaviour of his clan, he is otherwise free to 
regulate his life according to his tastes. His dwelling, 
consisting of several buildings cased in handsome tile- 
work, and a number of courts planted with chenars, 
cypresses and roses, is exceedingly pretty, and a 
proof that, though brought up in a tent, he knows 

248 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

how to make the best of his forced residence in a 
town. About a hundred retainers were idling about 
in the courts, smoking kalians and drinking sherbet. 
Their lord, a man of tall and imposing figure, with a 
look of keen intelligence in his eyes, wore a tall hat 
and robes embroidered and lined with the finest black 
lambs'-wool, the produce of his own flocks. He, too, 
had heard of the highway robbery, and at once be- 
trayed his tribal extraction and opinions by attributing 
it, in the most positive manner, to the dependants of 
his mortal enemy, the chief of a powerful and rival 
tribe of this region, on whose head he heaped many 
curses and maledictions. Hatred of this individual 
seemed to be his idee fixe, and he talked of little else, 
until we happened to mention that we intended return- 
ing to Ispahan through the pasture-grounds of his own 
tribe. He was much pleased at this and promised 
us a gholam (mounted servant) of his household as 
escort, and a circular, which would insure us a hospi- 
table reception from all his subjects. 

Another important character at Shiraz was Mirza 
Mahommed Keza, whose acquaintance I made under 
circumstances which prove that a feeling of gratitude 
is not foreign to every Persian breast. Strolling one 
afternoon through the town, we met a portly Seyed, 
wearing a large green turban and a long beard care- 
fully dyed red ; contrary to the custom of his class, 
who generally make a point of showing their con- 
tempt of Christians by haughtiness and insolence, he 
greeted my friends with much cordiality and inquired 

Tribe of Eeliauts — Mirza Mahommed Reza. 249 

who I was. Next morning a servant knocked at my 
door and, after declaring himself to be my sacrifice, 
presented me with a large tray of tea and preserved 
oranges, and the Seyed's compliments. Somewhat 
puzzled at this excessive politeness, I at once paid 
him a visit, and, on entering his room, was still more 
surprised when he opened the conversation by asking 
after the health of a near relative of my own. How- 
ever, he soon explained all by telling me that thirty 
years previously he had resided for some time at 
Hyderabad, and had there made the acquaintance of 
the gentleman in question, and received some trivial 
service from him. Since then the world had gone well 
with him ; he had made a large fortune in trade, and 
having returned to Shiraz, his native town, had had 
the pleasure of receiving my relative in his own house 
in 1848. I complimented the old gentleman on his 
good memory, and thanked him for his present, and 
we became great friends. His sojourn in India and 
his intercourse with Europeans had not increased his 
respect for his own religion and countrymen ; in fact, 
he had become a free-thinker, and did not conceal 
from me that mollahs and priests were the bane of 
his life. On his return to Shiraz, he said, they had 
worried him to death, because he had a favourite dog 
and no wife ; until at last, to escape their sermons 
and lead a quiet life, he had taken to himself a spouse 
and become the father of a fine blue-eyed boy. During 
the Moharrem, or month of mourning, they never 
allowed him to mourn in private, but overwhelmed 

250 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

him with invitations to weep and eat pilau in their 
society. At their instigation the Governor always 
requested him to supply suits of armour and clothes 
for the representations of the deaths of the sons of Ali, 
which are then given ; in short, there was no end to 
the trouble he had with them. " This year, however," 
he said with a chuckle, " I have outwitted them. When 
the Governor sent for my contribution to the play, 
I replied that, being a descendant of the Prophet and 
having the blood of Ali in my veins, I already fully 
realized the loss I had sustained by the premature 
death of his sons, and was weighed down with grief 
and sorrow ; but that there were many others who had 
not the same reasons for mourning, and that it was 
but just that they should be reminded of the solemnity 
of this season by being mulcted of what was necessary 
to represent the events which it commemorated. So 
I heard no more of the matter ; but you see," he con- 
cluded, " I have no peace in my own country, and I 
therefore wish I was back in yours." 

The climate of Shiraz during spring and autumn 
is delicious. May is, perhaps, the finest month ; the 
whole plain is then fresh and green ; the gardens are 
filled with roses and nightingales ; cherries ripen, and 
Persians indulge in quantities of green almonds, of 
which, as well as of all unripe fruit, they are exces- 
sively fond. Its principal industrial products are 
glass bottles, rose-water, and damascened swords and 
daggers. The test usually demanded of a good blade 
and a skilled swordsman is the severance at one blow 

Climate and Products of Shiraz. 251 

of an eider-down pillow suspended in the air. I have 
already spoken of its wine, which, with proper care, 
might be brought up to the standard of good Madeira, 
and need hardly mention its tembeckee (tobacco), 
since it is so fragrant and so highly appreciated that 
it has rendered famous the name of Shiraz wherever 
the kalian is smoked. 

252 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 


Return Northwards — Second Visit to Persepolis — Naksh-i- 

rejeeb istakr oljjan disagreeable reception in an 

Eeliaut Encampment — A Flight of Locusts — Pistols 
versus Daggers — Summer Quarters — Persian Ideas of 
Europe — Massacre of Jews — Trout-fishing and Snipe- 

The Nomad instinct, which is said to be innate in us 
all, but is repressed in Europe by education arid 
civilization, develops itself rapidly in a country like 
Persia, where there is no obstacle to its indulgence : 
impelled by it, and weary of the monotony of a 
residence in town — which, in the East, is, at best, 
camping without any of the incident or exciting 
variety of camp life — I determined to pass the interval 
of five or six days, which would elapse before my 
companion, the Doctor, would be ready to start with 
me for Tehran, on the plain of Merdasht, in prefer- 
ence to further inactivity at Shiraz. Accordingly, on 
the 24th of May, after duly celebrating her Majesty's 
birthday, by drinking her health in the topaz-coloured 
wine in which Hafiz found inspiration, I left the city 
of roses behind me, and retraced my steps to 
Zergoon. Diverging thence eastwards from the 

"Bendemir" — ]\[otives ascribed to Antiquarians. 253 

high-road to Ispahan, I rode in a few hours to the 
village which has given to the river Bendemir the 
name under which it is now known. Anciently it was 
called the Araxes, but, in the tenth century, an Emir, 
then governor of the province of Fars, dammed up 
its waters for purposes of irrigation, by throwing a 
" bund " or dyke across it, and since his time it has 
borne its present designation. The " bund," which 
is twenty-five feet high, has withstood the wear and 
tear of eight centuries, and still answers its purpose ; 
but a bridge of thirteen arches, which surmounts it, 
will ere long be impassable. There is the same 
absence of bowers and nightingales on the river's 
banks at Bendemir as at the place where we passed it 
in marching southwards. 

Crossing the plain, another day was passed in 
wandering amongst the ruins of Persepolis. Eeliauts 
had pitched their black tents just under the grand 
terrace ; goats and kids were frisking about on the 
marble staircases, and sheep browzing in the shade 
of the great bulls. A troop of twenty of their owners 
were a source of considerable annoyance to me ; they 
so dogged my steps, and kept such a constant watch 
on my movements, that I at first suspected them of 
some sinister intent. My suspicions were, however, 
speedily calmed by remembering the objects and 
motives which are attributed to the visits of Euro- 
peans to these ruins by all Persians. None of them 
can believe that they are prompted by curiosity or a 
desire to study the past. They listen with attention 

254 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

to one's expression of feelings of admiration for their 
antiquities, and apparently participate in them ; but 
a cunning twinkle of the eye betrays the secret thought 
of even the most educated amongst them. " Ah ! " 
they seem to be saying to themselves, " you, too, 
have heard of the treasures buried in our country ; you, 
too, have come to search for them. No one would be 
such a fool as to come such a long way with any other 
object." It is little use arguing against opinions so 
deeply rooted as this one, especially with people like 
my Eeliauts ; so I w r as forced to submit to their 
importunity, and listen to a good deal of talk about 
Jemsheed, and the gold which is supposed to lie 
hidden beneath his throne. 

About three miles north-east of the terrace, in a 
natural recess in the rocks called Naksh-i-Kejeeb, 
there are some more Sassanian bas-reliefs, but so much 
defaced that it is difficult to make out their subjects. 
Chardin, I think, relates that, during the reign of the 
successor of Abbas the Great, the prime minister of 
the day, annoyed at the interest taken by Europeans 
in the antiquities of this plain, employed sixty men 
for a considerable time in destroying them ; and these 
relics, probably from their conspicuous position near the 
high-road, have, apparently, been the greatest sufferers. 

Again crossing the plain in a westerly direction, I 
reached the foot of the hill of Istakr, which I have 
mentioned in a previous chapter as forming a pro- 
minent object in the view from the terrace of 
Persepolis. It has a conical base, sloping gradually 

Ruins of Istakr. 255 

up to a height of 1,200 feet, above which rises a zone 
of rock, half a mile in diameter, 500 feet high, and 
perpendicular as a wall. A guide from a neighbour- 
ing village led me up a zigzag path, and along some 
narrow ledges cut out of the face of the rock, and 
affording just sufficient space for the passage of a 
single person to the summit. The ruins which crown 
it date, I believe, from the tenth century, and consist 
principally of cisterns of hewn stone, the largest being 
fifty yards long by twenty broad. By its side stands 
the largest cedar (the only tree on the hill) I have 
ever seen : its trunk measures nearly six feet in 
diameter. Istakr was a stronghold of the Princes of 
Fars during the dark and middle ages, and must 
have been impregnable except by famine. 

Having now seen all the points of interest in this, 
the most interesting district in Persia, I left it — perhaps 
for ever. Following the course of the Bendemir for 
twenty miles, and then turning north-east, I arrived at 
Mayeen, a village pleasantly situated on a green plain 
amidst fine walnut-trees ; but, notwithstanding its 
apparently fertile neighbourhood, so miserably poor 
that bread was scarcely to be had, and many of its 
inhabitants were reduced to eating half-matured ears 
of barley. Here I was rejoined by my companion, the 
Doctor, and we set forth again on the 30th of May up a 
pretty valley, well watered and wooded with elm and ash 
— the last trees of spontaneous growth we were to see for 
a very long time. Gradually they decreased in size and 
number, as we ascended a steep, stony pass leading to 

256 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

the village of Imaum-Zadeh-Ismael (said to be inhabited 
exclusively by descendants of the Prophet), until we 
there again found ourselves amidst the russet-brown 
scenery which these pages have made familiar. 

Surmounting the pass, a descent of ten miles 
(making the day's march about thirty miles in all) 
brought us to Eezabad, in the plains of Oujan ; where, 
in default of better accommodation in the village, we 
camped and slept in a deserted tomb. Oujan is famous 
in Persian history as having been the favourite hunting- 
ground of Bahram Gour, and the place where he met 
with his untimely death. Surrounded by rugged, 
towering, gaunt mountains, the plain is covered from 
early spring till late autumn with the most luxurious 
herbage, and watered by a superabundance of streams 
which terminate, in its depressions, in fathomless black 
pools. It was in one of these that Bahram and his 
horse, carried away by the ardour of the chase, 
disappeared. Search was at once made, but their 
bodies were never found, and hence it is presumed that 
these pools have subterraneous exits. However that 
may be, they are dangerous-looking places ; especially 
when, as is often the case, they are half hidden by 
reeds and rank grass. Game of varied sorts is still 
abundant — antelope, wild sheep and goats, partridges, 
wild-fowl, and the hobbarah, a small species of 
bustard : wild asses and bears are sometimes seen. 
But the neighbourhood is so unsafe, from its vicinity 
to the strongholds of the Baktiari, Mamaceni, and other 
marauding tribes, over which the Shah's authority can 

Upland Plains. 257 

hardly be said to extend, that hunting excursions are 
always attended with considerable risk. 

Our march on the 31st was to be a short one of 
sixteen miles, to the village of Assopas, at the opposite 
extremity of the plain. We started about 6 a.m. with 
our caravan, but finding the turf most inviting for a 
gallop, my friend and I, accompanied by a single servant, 
soon left it far behind us. The gholam promised us 
by the Eelkhaneh of Shiraz was in charge of it, and 
being thus relieved from all anxiety we continued 
to push on, until, after riding for four hours along the 
only track visible without seeing a single human being 
or habitation, we arrived at the foot of a steep pass, 
evidently leading out of the plain. Some Eeliaut 
herdsmen here told us that our destination was several 
miles off, and, though doubting the correctness of this 
information, we commenced the ascent, and at its top 
came in sight of another upland plain, beautifully 
green, level as a billiard-table, but entirely uninhabited 
as far as our view extended. It was clear we had 
missed our road, and ridden beyond our intended 
halting-place. Rather, however, than retrace our 
steps, we determined to march on, and perform two 
stages instead of one, trusting that our caravan-leader, 
not finding us at Assopas, would come on likewise. 
The descent to this second plain was rugged and 
fatiguing ; but once on the grass, we cantered towards 
a projecting spur of the mountains which intercepted 
our view, in the hope that behind it we should see our 
manzil. From one spur we rode to another, and still 


258 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

no village was to be seen. At last, towards two 
o'clock, when both horse and man were well-nigh 
spent by heat and fasting, we reached a point whence 
the whole plain lay before us, and a large number of 
black tents was visible about three miles ahead of us. 
My servant was at once sent on in front to 
announce us and request hospitality, whilst we followed 
at a more leisurely pace. Arrived in the encampment, 
a score of Eeliauts turned out to stare at us, and 
conspicuous amongst them was a young man of very 
handsome features, whose tall, well-knit figure was a 
perfect model of strength and activity. To him we 
explained our position and his lord's wishes as to our 
reception, requesting at the same time that a tent and 
breakfast should be prepared for us, and a horseman 
sent back to hasten on our baggage. Little credence 
seemed to be given to our statements, and no attention 
was paid to our requests ; neither word, look, nor 
action gave any indication of the boasted hospitality 
of the dwellers in tents. We then tried stronger 
language. The model was informed that unless he at 
once gave us what we wanted, we should send a 
messenger back to Shiraz to report the conduct of the 
tribe to the Eelkhaneh. A consultation ensued, but 
only resulted in a sullen invitation to dismount and sit 
down in the shade of a carpet hung up outside one of 
the tents. This looked bad ; for, according to the 
customs of Nomads, any one who has once crossed 
their thresholds and eaten of their bread, is safe as 
long as he is amongst them ; and it was evident that, 

Encampment of Eeliauts — Doubtful Reception. 259 

as these people omitted asking us to enter their 
dwellings, they intended to keep their hands free as 
regarded our future treatment. For us there was but 
one course to pursue. We hardly knew where we were, 
we were wearied and hungry ; there was no village or 
house within sight ; our horses were fatigued with 
an eight-hours' march ; and any abatement in our 
demands or any apparent hesitation in our deter- 
mination to enforce them, might have encouraged 
aggression. In the scanty shade of the carpet we 
therefore seated ourselves, with our rifles and revolvers 
ready to hand. An hour elapsed, during which argu- 
ments and threats were alike unavailing ; the model 
and his comrades remained impassible and doggedly 
refused obedience to our orders. Covetous looks were 
cast on our saddles and arms, and indications of a 
desire to loot us were not wanting ; but whether or not 
there was an intention to do so, it is impossible to say, 
for on its expiration we espied our gholam careering 
down towards us as fast as his horse could carry him. 
Galloping up to the crowd, and addressing himself to 
the mode], he exhibited his written credentials from 
the Eelkhaneh, and summoned him on pain of all 
sorts of terrible penalties, to comply with their contents. 
But still the Eeliauts hesitated : and it was not until 
our caravan and servants hove in sight that they were 
convinced of the authenticity of the document, and of 
the necessity of according us the hospitality which our 
numbers now enabled us to exact. Then the model's 
tone changed : from haughty and sullen, it became 

260 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

obsequious and servile. He begged pardon ; he had 
misunderstood us : what were our orders ? He was 
our sacrifice, and only there to obey. The best tent 
was at once placed at our disposal ; a lamb was killed 
and spitted, and trays of bread, maust, honey, butter, 
and kebabs were placed before us, whilst a deputation 
of the greybeards of the tribe requested permission to 
pay their respects. 

Previous and subsequent experience has brought 
me to the conclusion that Persians, whether nomads 
or the contrary, must be treated with a high hand. 
The European traveller owes his safety to the fear 
which he inspires, and to nothing else : if he be not 
really able to enforce obedience, he must act as if he 
were. His prestige is luckily still so great that a 
display of firmness generally obviates the necessity of 
a recourse to extreme measures ; but he must always 
be prepared for them, and show that he is so. Then 
he will, as a rule, find little difficulty in procuring all 
that a traveller can justly demand, and have no reason 
to complain of his reception amongst them ; for, 
except when roused by religious fanaticism, they are 
naturally amiable, docile, and serviceable. 

Things had now taken a favourable turn, the pangs 
of hunger were stilled, and our tempers were soothed 
by the return of a feeling of security and the kalian. 
My companion dozed off into a sound sleep, whilst I 
kept up a drowsy conversation with the greybeards ; 
who, seated in front of the open tent, examined guns, 
rifles and pistols with considerable minuteness, and 

Compulsory Hospitality — Cloud of Locusts. 261 

a vast amount of astonishment depicted on their 
swarthy features. 

All at once I was startled by a peculiar noise : 
at first it was like the sound of distant billows 
breaking on a rocky coast, but as each moment it 
came nearer and nearer, it resembled so much the 
roar of a rushing mighty wind, that I fully expected 
we should soon be enveloped in one of those devas- 
tating hurricanes which Eastern travellers have de- 
scribed as rising, by magic as it were, and sweeping 
everything before them. Still the sky was of the 
clearest blue, and my tent-hangings hardly moved in 
the almost imperceptible breeze. With serious faces 
my audience listened attentively for a minute or two, 
and then, as the roar increased, sprang to their feet, 
uttering the ill-omened cry, " Malek, malek, " " The 
locusts, the locusts ! " From behind the hills, about 
three miles off, a cloud appeared, casting a deep 
shadow over the plain and advancing fast towards us ; 
in a few seconds it was upon us, and then, far as the 
eye could see, the atmosphere teemed with myriads 
of these fell destroyers : their serried ranks shut out 
the light of day and filled the Eeliauts' hearts with 
fear and disquietude. On they went in compact 
swarms, beating the air with millions of wings and 
apparently driven by some strong current ; in half an 
hour they had vanished from view. All was still 
again ; but hardly had my hosts had time to congratu- 
late themselves on the departure of the scourge when 
the peculiar noise was again heard. The cloud reap- 

262 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

peared, returning towards us ; the sun was again 
obscured, and now the locusts descended on the plain. 
By sunset they had all alighted ; the green turf was 
so thickly covered with them, that strolling about in 
the evening one could not avoid crushing them by 
half-dozens at each step, and a donkey's snort raised a 
cloud of them round his head ; they penetrated into 
our tents, on to our beds and carpets : wherever we 
turned or looked there were locusts. Those I examined 
were of different colours, green, pink, yellow, and drab ; 
many of them were above three inches long. Their 
voracity is well known, but it is not only on vegetation 
that they commit ravages ; they try their jaws on 
almost anything, leather, canvas, cloth, &c. ; and my 
friend the Doctor told me that a child was once brought 
to him at Baghdad with its eyelids and the skin of its 
nose completely eaten off by these gluttons. 

As darkness came on, the flocks and herds were 
driven up to our encampment amidst much bleating 
and lowing; the women, of gipsy-like appearance 
and for the most part sparsely clothed in rags and 
tatters, busied themselves in milking their cows and 
goats ; the men lighted their camp-fires and sat down 
around them to their frugal supper of curds : the full 
moon rose, in a violet sky, and hushed all, but the 
ever-watchful dogs, in the silence of sleep. 

Next morning we could see that the locusts had 
done their work ; they had eaten the grass bare in 
many places ; heaps of them were lying about in all 
directions, killed by their own gluttony, or by the 

Silent Region. 2G3 

Eeliauts. The latter had already decamped, and a 
smouldering log or two alone marked the place of their 
sojourn. We soon overtook them on their way to still 
higher pasture-grounds, and rode along with them in 
great amity for two days. Presents were exchanged, 
between us ; theirs consisting of dairy produce, 
dates, an antelope which they had caught alive in a 
swamp, and a greyhound ; ours, of powder and money. 

Our first day's march was for several miles along 
the plain, and then up a gradual ascent to another 
upland vale and to a curious caravansary called 
Kooshki-zerd, the Yellow Castle, prohably from a 
yellow-tiled hunting-box which Bahrain Gour is said 
to have had there. The second was over dwarfish 
hills, opening out now and then into grass-covered 
glens, backed by craggy mountains, to the alpine 
village of Dehgerdoo. The air is deliciously cool and 
invigorating on this high table-land, and hence the 
road which traverses it is, in summer, generally pre- 
ferred by travellers to the ordinary post-road ; in 
other respects, with the exception of the green plains 
already mentioned, there is little to recommend it. 
It is always more or less dangerous from the vicinity 
of the Baktiaries, accommodation is worse than in 
the lower land, and the solitude and silence seem more 
intense. We met neither caravan nor wayfarer of 
any description ; for two days we saw neither animals 
nor birds, and locusts were apparently the only insects 
to be found there. 

Dehgerdoo is such a miserably dirty place that we 

264 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

camped outside its walls, on the banks of a stream, 
and only halted long enough to snatch a few hours' 
sleep under a willow- tree. Our next stage was to be 
long and fatiguing, and the muleteers, in order to 
escape the great heat of the mid-day hours, insisted 
on starting at two in the morning. Nothing, in my 
opinion, equals the discomfort of a night march with a 
caravan : obliged to move at a foot's pace for fear of 
outstripping the mules and losing the way, there is 
nothing to occupy the mind ; drowsiness comes on, 
and with it a constant and painful struggle to keep 
oneself awake; if sleep gets the upper hand for a 
moment, one is disagreeably awakened the next by 
finding oneself on one's horse's neck, or within an ace 
of falling off altogether ; the hours of darkness, too, 
seem as if they would never end. We had a lovely 
moonlight night, but even the marvellous effects of 
light and shade, the clearness of the violet-coloured 
sky and the innumerable stars, ever visible in Persia's 
pure atmosphere, failed to interest us long, and to 
avoid breaking our bones we at last found it necessary 
to get off our horses and walk. When morning 
dawned, we found we had quitted the grassy upland 
and descended into a region of rocky glens and brown 
hills, which we only quitted to enter the valley of 
Yezdicaust, a sketch of which has been given in a 
former chapter. Here, after a tramp of eight hours, 
we rejoined the post-road to Ispahan. As the heat 
threatened to become each day more oppressive, and 
the weary slowness of the night's march had disgusted 

An Insolent Postmaster. 265 

us not a little with caravan pace, we determined to 
leave our mules and baggage behind us, and perform 
the rest of the journey as quickly as possible on post- 
horses. Accordingly, before retiring to bed in the 
caravansary, a servant was despatched to the post-house 
to order our horses, and returned with an answer 
that they would be ready early in the afternoon. 

At the appointed hour a groom went to fetch them, 
but brought back in their stead a message" from the 
postmaster to the effect that he had received orders 
from Tehran to furnish no more horses to Feringhees. 
On the face of it this message was a lying invention, 
and also a gratuitous insult. The groom was therefore 
ordered to return and inform its author that if he 
persisted in his refusal to grant us the means of 
proceeding on our journey, we should be obliged to 
employ force. To this ultimatum came a reply con- 
taining more than one allusion to " Christian clogs," and 
couched in terms more insolent than the first message. 
There was, therefore, nothing to be done but to carry 
our threat into execution ; and, as luck would have it, 
on leaving the caravansary with four servants for this 
purpose, a happy thought made me tell one of the 
party to bring with him my revolver, which, in the 
hurry of dressing, I had left under my pillow. We 
found the post-house door bolted and barred, and the 
postmaster and half- a dozen of his men seated on the 
roof smoking. Our request was once more repeated, 
and again refused ; thereupon, an old telegraph pole 
which happened to be lying near was put into 

266 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

requisition as a ram, and the door speedily yielded 
before it. In the courtyard and stables there was but 
one horse, which, from its beauty and condition, was 
evidently no poster ; we, however, at once ordered 
him to be led away to our quarters as a hostage, until 
the others should be forthcoming. Whilst engaged in 
superintending his departure, I heard the postmaster 
and his men descending the stairs from the roof, and 
had hardly time to turn and face them when three of 
them were upon us; so near indeed that their long 
knives gleamed in the air a few inches above our heads. 
Luckily my companion had been watching their move- 
ments and divined their intention ; quick as thought 
he snatched my revolver — the only arm we had with 
us — from my servant's hand and pointed its five barrels 
full in the face of our nearest assailant. There was a 
moment of suspense ; but only a moment : the revolver 
had won the day ; the three knives were sheathed at 
once. Then ensued the usual scene. The most ample 
apologies were made ; the most urgent supplications 
addressed to us not to report the matter further. This 
was not, however, a case in which we alone were 
concerned. These post-houses are maintained by the 
Persian Government for the use of travellers : each 
master receives from it annually a fixed sum for the 
keep of the requisite number of horses ; and it is his 
duty to let them out at a fixed rate to all who demand 
them. The postmaster of Yezdicaust had not only 
attempted to evade this duty, but had likewise 
threatened to loot and tried to murder us, and if we 

Fatiguing Ride. 267 

had allowed this conduct to pass unpunished, it seemed 
prohahle that he would wreak his vengeance at having 
been foiled, on the next European who happened to 
pass this way. So, notwithstanding that he sent us 
our horses within half-an-hour of the above occurrence, 
we refused to accept any apology, and informed him 
that he would soon hear more of the matter. This he 
did, within a very few days ; for on receipt of our 
letter stating what had happened, the Governor of the 
province, our friend the Hissam-i-Sultaneh, sent for 
the man to Shiraz, caused 500 sticks to be broken on 
his feet in the presence of the British agent, and 
dismissed him the service. 

Meantime, we started on our ninety miles' ride to 
Ispahan, which town we reached next day, the 4th of 
June, without further mishap. Three days' repose 
was all we could allow ourselves, and on the 9th we 
were off again to Tehran. The road has already been 
described. The country looked browner, more arid 
and burnt, than when we previously traversed it, 
though every plain had its beautiful but delusive 
mirage lake ; the heat and glare were excessive, the 
dust blinding, and the wind scorching. Through this 
we spurred and flogged for seventy-two hours, merely 
lying down on a carpet for half-an-hour's sleep at 
each post-house whilst fresh horses were being 
saddled. We w 7 ere lucky in getting pretty good ones, 
and though we had several times to take them on for 
two successive stages, and often crawled in on them 
to our manzils at a snail's pace, we escaped the 

268 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

dilemma to which an English officer had been reduced 
some time previously when making a chapar journey to 
the South. He had ridden in advance of his servants 
and lost sight of them, when in the middle of a desert 
plain his horse broke down so completely that he was 
obliged to leave the poor beast to his fate ; he was 
walking with saddle, bridle, and holsters piled on his 
head towards the next post-house, when he was met 
by a Persian nobleman, who, puzzled no doubt at 
seeing a solitary European in such a plight and place, 
asked him what he was doing. " I am riding post 
to Shiraz," replied the officer. 

The heat was already so great at Tehran that the 
Shah and his Court, and all those who could follow 
their example, had left the town for their summer 
quarters on the slopes of the Elburz ; whilst those who 
remained were passing their days in zyr-i-zemeens 
(underground chambers), and their nights on the 
housetops. The English Legation was established 
at Gulhek, a village situated about six miles off on 
rising ground to the north of the city, which was 
given some years ago in fief to the British Govern- 
ment by the Shah. Close to it a garden, several 
acres in extent, and inclosed by a substantial wall, 
contained the dwellings of her Majesty's Minister and 
his secretaries. The Minister's house was two-storied, 
but afforded so little accommodation that it was 
supplemented by a large marquee, which served as 
breakfast and dining-room ; bell tents were pitched 
around amongst the trees for the servants and kitchen, 

English Legation at Gulhek. 269 

and the horses were stabled in temporary huts roofed 
with branches. For the junior members of the Lega- 
tion there were smaller houses of two or three rooms 
each, scattered about in different parts of the garden, 
and likewise supplemented with bell tents and huts, 
so that their occupants had their servants and horses 
within call. An abundant stream of water irrigated 
the garden and fed a couple of tanks large enough for 
a swim in the morning and at sunset, — the only exer- 
cise it was possible to take between the 15th of June 
and 20th of August, when the thermometer stood at 
95° in the daytime and 86° at night. In such a tem- 
perature I found it impossible to sleep except in the 
open air, — a proceeding which is unattended by any 
risk to one's health, as no dew falls, and the atmo- 
sphere is so dry that a steel blade may be exposed for 
months without contracting a particle of rust. 

The villagers of Gulhek enjoy several privileges in 
consequence of their village having become British 
property. They are exempt from furnishing recruits 
or having troops quartered on them ; their tribute, 
due to the Legation, is always remitted ; and, except 
in case of revolt, criminal and civil jurisdiction is 
exercised within their walls by a kedkhoda nominated 
by the British Minister , I never, however, perceived 
that they were particularly grateful for these boons, or 
that they were better disposed towards us than their 
neighbours. More than once they diverted our stream 
to their own fields ; and I daresay would have had no 
scruples in appropriating other property, had not all 

270 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

our garden gates been watched day and night by 
sentinels who allowed no one to come in or go out 
without the password. The Eussian, French, and 
Turkish Legations were located in villages, held on 
the same terms, at no great distance ; and the society 
of their members, with that of the English telegraph 
officers, was our only social resource, unless the visits 
of the dellal be considered of that nature. The dellal 
is a pedlar of antiquities and retailer of bazaar news. 
His wares consist of carpets, arms, calamdons (papier- 
mache pen-trays), Kerman shawls, silk abbas, en- 
graved copper vases, china ; in short, all sorts of bric-a- 
brac. Of all Persians he is the blandest and the least 
hampered with conscientious scruples or honest prin- 
ciples. For all his articles he has always numberless 
purchasers, but has refused their offers and kept his 
goods especially for the client in whose presence he 
happens to be. He is as adroit in passing new things 
off for old as his compeers in Europe, and as little 
credit can be attached to his words as to theirs ; but he 
is generally amusing, and a welcome, though sometimes 
an expensive, guest. 

On the 20fch of June, the Shah's birthday, we all 
went to congratulate his Majesty, who was living a 
few miles off, at his summer palace of Neaveran. He 
had just then heard rumours of a probable outbreak 
of hostilities in Germany, — the subdivisions of which 
were united and amalgamated long before the time of 
Bismarck, in the Persian language, under the name 
of Lampza, — and had apparently much difficulty in 

Persian Ideas of Europe. ^71 

understanding the co-existence in one country of two 
such potentates as the Emperor of Austria and King 
of Prussia ; for, in referring to these sovereigns, he 
said that if there were two Shahs in Iran, it was 
certain that they must fight until one had destroyed 
the other. E[e further expressed surprise that Eng- 
land was not going to take part in the impending war, 
remarking that formerly she had always been the 
foremost in every fight. Was she growing old ? 

Persians, as has already been stated, have very 
vague ideas as to the geography of Europe and the 
relative strength of European powers. Kussia is 
generally considered the most powerful of them, and 
has, by her recent conquests in Central Asia, some- 
what dimmed the prestige which England enjoys from 
her possession of India. Turkey, from its vicinity, is 
known to be formidable; but the other nations of 
the West are supposed to be little more than petty 
principalities, whose princes are ever warring on each 
other, and whose overcrowded inhabitants are ever 
kept working like slaves, in manufactories. As to 
their own country, they think there is none other like 
it. Its king is the king of kings, its mountains are 
the highest, its plains the vastest, its climate the best 
in the world ; its horses are the fleetest, its women 
the most beautiful, and its fruit the most mellow : 
there is no place like Iran. 

The prevalence of such ideas is not surprising 
when the geographical and intellectual isolation of 
Persia is considered. The number of Europeans 

272 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

who visit it is excessively small, and their intercourse 
with the natives of the most limited nature. Few 
of its inhabitants have ever been west of Constan- 
tinople and Nishni-Novgorod, or east of Bombay ; 
and the accounts which these few bring back with 
them of what they have seen are always toned 
down so as to flatter the national vanity. Books 
relating to foreign countries hardly exist ; and cara- 
vans and the monthly couriers of the French and 
English legations are the only means of communi- 
cating with them. The Shah is, probably, the only 
person in his kingdom who sees foreign journals, and 
even his knowledge of them is confined to illustrated 
papers. Thus there is, generally speaking, amongst 
all classes profound ignorance of, and complete in- 
difference to, all that goes on outside their immediate 
circle ; probably, a Cornish miner or a Cumberland 
ploughman knows as much of Central Asia as an 
enlightened Persian does of anything beyond the 
frontiers of his own country. 

Some years previous to my visit, the Shah ordered 
a weekly journal to be lithographed and published 
in the capital, and commanded all his officers, civil 
and military, to subscribe to and read it. For some 
months its columns were filled with descriptions of 
European countries, their inventions, trades, and 
arts ; but, just as children get tired of good books, 
both editors and readers had soon more than enough 
of this information, and at the time of which I am 
speaking the Tehran Gazette contained nothing but a 

Tehran Gazette — Persecution of the Jews. 273 

short Court circular, long disquisitions on the art of 
making gold, and the probability of the discovery of 
the philosopher's stone, almost the only subjects in 
which Persians take an interest. 

As letters and papers only reached us once a 
month, and the same post which brought us the news 
of the declaration of war contained the intelligence that 
the Prussians were before the lines of Vienna, it was 
difficult even for us to follow very closely the changes 
which were being brought about, two thousand miles 
off, by the events of 1866. Our attention, too, was 
soon diverted from them, for the moment at least, by 
the accounts of a horrible massacre of Jews which 
took place about this time near Barfouroush, a town 
in the province of Mazanderan, not far from the 
Caspian Sea. 

The Children of Israel are the world's scapegoats. 
Christians and Mahometans unite in looking upon 
them as legitimate objects on which to vent their 
spleen, and in considering, in some countries at least, 
their persecution as a laudable proceeding, a means 
of propitiating God and averting calamity. Being 
once on a visit to Tetuan, I was startled one evening 
by hearing an immense hubbub in the generally quiet 
streets, and, issuing forth to inquire its cause, found 
the entire Jewish population of the town, men, women, 
and children, some 10,000 souls in all, prostrate on 
their knees, addressing loud prayers and supplications 
to heaven. The spring had been very dry, fears were 
entertained that the crops would suffer from the 


274 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia, 

drought, the Moors had prayed in vain for rain, and, 
as a last resource, the governor had ordered the Jews 
to intercede with the Deity. Next morning there was 
a shower, and I heard a Jew and a Moor wrangling 
in a bazaar as to the efficacy of their respective 
prayers. The Jew pointed with an air of triumph to 
the falling drops as proofs of the influence of his 
people with their beneficent God. The Moor shrugged 
his shoulders, and contemptuously remarked that 
Jewish prayers were so distasteful to Allah's ears, 
that he had sent rain in order to hear no more of 

At Barfouroush, another expedient is used when 
the elements are unfavourable. The disinterment 
and dispersion to the winds of a Jew's dust is there 
found to be efficacious in securing a supply of rain ; 
and it is possible that, the usual remedy for scarcity 
having been tried without producing the desired 
results, the disappointed Barfouroushees may have 
thought that violent measures might succeed where 
mild ones had failed. However this may be— for the 
immediate cause of the massacre was never elicited — 
they rose one night, attacked and set fire to the 
Jewish quarters of the town, massacred eighteen men 
and six women (two of the former were besmeared 
with petroleum and burnt alive), and drove the sur- 
vivors almost naked into the woods. 

The European missions have always used their 
influence to prevent occurrences of this nature, and to 
obtain the punishment of their authors, and repara- 

Remonstrance — Summer Camp of the Shah. 275 

tion for the sufferers ; but on this occasion the 
English mission alone made formal representations. 
A letter was written by the British Minister, stating 
the painful impression which would be produced in 
England by the news of this massacre, and expressing 
the hope that his Majesty would make such an 
example of its perpetrators as would deter others from 
following in their steps. With this letter I was 
despatched to the royal camp, which, after a day and a 
half's ride, I found established in a secluded and well- 
watered valley, called Sheristanek, on the north side 
of the Elburz mountains. 

The Shah usually passes five or six months of 
the year under canvas. Like all Persians, he dislikes 
the restraints of town life, and, as soon as summer 
commences, departs to the hills, where he can 
enjoy freedom and indulge his passion for hunting 
and shooting. His camp is no temporary bivouac, 
but a summer residence, as comfortable and 
luxurious as any of his palaces. He is generally 
accompanied by forty ladies of the harem, and his 
own and their marquees, which are scarlet, form the 
centre of the encampment. At a respectful distance 
are grouped the white tents of ministers, courtiers, 
and guards ; the abode of the chief executioner, dis- 
tinguished by the display before it of several felleks, 
and a plentiful supply of sticks, being conspicuous 
amongst them ; and around these, soldiers and 
servants, to the number of three or four thousand, 
bivouac, and horses, mules, &c. are tethered. After 

276 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

passing the outposts, I threaded my way to the tent of 
the Shah's aide-de-camp, delivered my letter, and then 
found cordial hospitality with his Majesty's French 
physician. Dinner, consisting of several dishes of the 
snowiest and most delicious rice I have ever seen, of 
ragouts of lamb and chicken strongly flavoured with 
saffron, of sauces sweet and sour, and dried fruits, was 
served from the royal kitchen. In the evening the 
aide-de-camp returned my visit, and, in handing me 
his sovereign's answer, begged my acceptance of a 
wild sheep and a wild goat, which his Majesty had 
that day shot, Next morning, as I rode away, I was 
stopped by a sentinel on guard near the scarlet tents, 
and informed that, in accordance with the etiquette of 
the camp, I must dismount and walk past the sacred 
precincts of the harem. The ladies were, apparently, 
not yet up, for, though I purposely dallied as much as 
possible, I saw not even a veil. 

The Shah's answer was all that the most ardent 
humanitarian could have desired. His feelings, he 
wrote, had been much shocked at the barbarous con- 
duct of the Barfouroushees ; he was determined that 
similar atrocities should no longer disgrace his king- 
dom, and he announced that a Commissioner should at 
once be sent down to the place with full powers to 
punish the offenders and compensate the surviving 
victims. His Majesty evidently meant to be as good 
as his word, and the immediate despatch of a func- 
tionary of high rank to Barfouroush encouraged us to 
hope that justice would be done. 

Church against State. 277 

On approaching the scene of the massacre, the 
commissioner was informed by the chief mollah of the 
place, that the populace was so exasperated that his 
entry into the town might be followed by the most 
disagreeable consequences ; he therefore remained 
encamped outside its walls, and demanded further 
instructions from the government. The wily mollah, 
having thus gained time for negotiation, set to work to 
shake the Shah's determination, and found most 
willing allies amongst his brethren in the capital. 
The mushtehed, or chief priest of Tehran, admo- 
nished the King for attempting to punish good Mussul- 
mans merely because a few dogs of Jews happened to 
have been killed, and insinuated that Islamism was in 
danger when foreigners and Christians dared to urge 
his Majesty to take rigorous measures against his own 
co-religionists, the most faithful of his subjects. The 
fanaticism of the populace was, at the same time, 
aroused, and a crusade against Feringhees was openly 
hinted at in the bazaars. At first we paid little atten- 
tion to all this ; but after a time our reports of the 
state of popular feeling towards us became so alarming, 
and rumours of an intended attack on the Mission so rife, 
that they could no longer be disregarded ; a member 
of the Legation was therefore sent to the Minister for 
Foreign Affairs to obtain information as to their authen- 
ticity. His excellency replied that these rumours had 
not reached his ears ; he would make inquiries about 
them, and, should there be any foundation for them, 
he would at once bring them to the knowledge of the 

278 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

Shah. He knew, he said, from intercepted letters, 
that the mollahs were highly indignant at his 
Majesty's expressed intention of punishing the 
Barfouroushees, and he himself had been threatened 
with excommunication for having seconded that in- 
tention. The Shah was very uneasy ; the situation 
was very serious ; dissimulation was necessary ; the 
mollahs must be appeased for the moment by dropping 
this question of the Jews until an opportunity occurred 
for diminishing or annihilating their influence with the 

Put into plain English his reply amounted to this : 
The priests' influence is paramount : we are powerless 
against it ; if you persist in interposing in favour of 
the Jews, we wash our hands of the consequences ; 
if you let the matter drop we can calm the storm that 
is brewing. That a storm was brewing was evident, 
not only from the Minister's words, but also from 
reliable reports which we received from the Affghan 
residents of Tehran ; who, though living under the 
protection of Persia, cordially hate the Persians, and, 
being Sunnies, would sooner fight for Christians than 
side with Shiahs against them. Several of them are 
proteges of the British Mission, and, believing there 
was some risk of an attack upon us, they offered 
to furnish a guard of 200 men for our defence. 
Their offer was of course declined; but the fact 
of its being made, proved that our interference in 
favour of the Jews had brought us into a difficulty 
which might become a danger; and which, since 

A a Outbreak of Fanaticism Averted. 279 

neither we nor the Shah could crush the mollahs, 
could only be turned by conciliating them. 

The first moonshee of the Legation, accordingly, 
had an interview with their chief men, who stated frankly 
that they and all good Mussulmans were incensed 
against us, because it was understood that we were 
hostile to Persia and Islamism, and that we insisted on 
the exile of the chief priest of Barfouroush, a very holy 
man and a pillar of their religion. The moonshee 
had little difficulty in refuting the two first accusations, 
by showing that it was the interest manifested by 
England in the maintenance of Persia which pre- 
vented it being dismembered by Kussians, Turks, and 
Affghans; and by pointing to India, where we had 
millions of Mahometan subjects who had never yet 
experienced persecution under our rule. As to the 
third count, he said that it was untrue ; and that if we 
had given advice in the matter we were not actuated 
in doing so by any hostile feelings for their religion, 
but simply by a desire for the welfare of our ally the 
Shah. Upon this the mollahs put their heads to- 
gether, and finally a tacit understanding was come to, 
to the effect that they would pacify the people of the 
bazaars, and that we would leave the Jews and their 
persecutors to the fate which the Shah's sense of 
justice might decide. 

Our action in the affair was thus terminated ; but 
the excitement and commotion it had caused was so 
serious that the King summoned a grand medjlis, or 
council of all the high functionaries of Church and 

'280 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

State, and some representatives of the mercantile and 
industrial classes, for the purpose of taking the posi- 
tion of the country into consideration. The clerical 
party at first advocated the expulsion of all Europeans, 
but finally contented themselves with demanding the 
dismissal of five French army instructors; a demand with 
which the Shah at once complied. The public irrita- 
tion being thus calmed, in a few days things began to 
resume their ordinary course, and the council turned 
its attention to other matters. Some time after- 
wards I asked a Persian what it was doing, and was 
told that the result of one week's deliberation was that 
shoes were to be divided into two classes, and that the 
maximum prices of the two classes had been fixed at 
forty and twenty francs respectively. Beyond this 
important enactment the public heard no more of its 
proceedings, and soon afterwards it was dissolved. 

As to the massacre, the sequel of the story may be 
told in a few words. For form's sake, a few of the 
Barfouroushees — those of them probably who could 
not prove their innocence by bribing the commissioner 
— were arrested and brought in chains to Tehran, 
whence they were speedily allowed to escape. A 
considerable indemnity was promised to the surviving 
Jews for the loss of their houses and property; but 
its payment was postponed from week to week, and 
with each postponement it decreased in amount, until 
at last it was reduced to a wretched pittance. There- 
upon a deputation of half- starved old men came across 
the mountains, and, after long waiting, found an 

Persian Indemnity for Jewish Wrongs. 281 

opportunity for presenting themselves as suppliants to 
the Shah as he was returning one day from hunting. 
" Who are these people?" he asked, when he saw 
them bowing in the dust by the roadside. " The 
Jews of Barfouroush," was the reply, and the King 
passed on, saying, " I have settled their affairs. What 
more can they want ? " No sooner was his back 
turned than the royal ferrashes fell upon the suppliants 
and beat them within an inch of their lives. Some 
of them then sought asylum in the Mission stables, 
and we learnt from them that the settlement referred 
to by the King was a grant of 7,000/., to which sum 
the original offer of 16,000/. had been reduced as 
soon as the government were relieved from the fear of 
further interference on our part. The King had 
ordered the 7,000/. to be paid in specie, and no doubt 
thought his orders had been executed. His ministers, 
however, could not make up their minds to what they 
considered a waste of good coin, and made the follow- 
ing arrangements with regard to it. First of all they 
decided that, in consideration of the protection afforded 
them, the Jews should make the King, i.e. his ministers, 
a present of 1,600/. They then proposed to relieve 
them of debts due to Mussulmans (most probably 
fictitious) to the extent of 1,800/., and to restore 
clothes and property recovered by the Commissioner, 
that were really worth about 400/., but were valued 
by the Persians at just double that amount. And, 
finally, they would give the remnant of the King's grant, 
i.e. 3,800/. in hard cash. In vain the Jews murmured 

282 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

against these hard conditions, and made pitiable 
representations of the sufferings of their friends and 
families, who, to the number of 450, were wandering 
houseless and starving in the woods of Mazanderan. 
They had played their last card by supplicating the 
Shah in person, and had lost : so they took their 
money and returned whence they came. The ministers 
likewise took theirs (every one said) , and, in view of this 
last act of the tragedy of Barfouroush, have no reason 
to deprecate a monthly recurrence of a massacre of 

Little else of interest occurred during the summer 
and autumn of 1866. The Debeer-ool-Moolk, Coun- 
cillor of the State, was dismissed from the post of 
governor of Tehran for peculation, and was succeeded 
by the Zaihir-ed-Dowleh — the Kingdom's Backbone. 
Our friend " the Sword of the State" fulfilled his 
promise, and caused eight brigands to be executed at 
once on the Maidan of Shiraz, and the Baktiaries 
became so bold that they extended their marauding 
incursions to the gates of Ispahan, and stripped the 
banks of the Zeinderood of their usual robe of bleach- 
ing calico. 

There was happily less insecurity around the 
capital, and I was unmolested in two or three 
excursions which I made across the Elburz for fishing. 
One of these was to a remote valley, some forty-five 
miles from Tehran, at the foot of Mount Demavend. 
There amidst the grandest of mountain scenery I 
camped for three days in perfect solitude, and fished 

Fishing, Shooting, and Skating, 283 

morning and evening in the river Lar. Like most of 
the streams which fall into the Caspian, it is full of 
trout, which had probably never before seen artificial 
flies and were most desirous of becoming acquainted 
with their flavour, for they rose by twos and threes to 
every throw of my line, and before leaving I had 450 
in my creels : the best of them varied from one 
pound to one pound and a half in weight. In the 
month of September we returned to town, and I made 
a trip to the Caspian, which it is unnecessary to describe, 
as we shall before long proceed to Europe by that 
route. In November we had very fair snipe- shooting, 
some twenty miles from the town, in the marshes in 
which the river Kerrij terminates its course, and on 
one occasion, when there was a good flight, got 
twenty-five brace to two guns before a late breakfast 
at noon. 

In December winter set in, and towards the end of 
the year skating again became our pastime ; it attracted 
crowds of native spectators, who were under the 
impression that we all suffered from some excessively 
hot disease, and were recommended this exercise as a 
cooling medicine. Commiseration for our supposed 
maladies did not, however, prevent the owners of ice- 
ponds from attempting to make a good thing out of 
the remedy, for they charged a high price for their 
use, and when one day a couple of favourite puppies 
followed us on to them, declared the ice to be nejjys — 
defiled, and consequently unfit for the use of Mussul- 
mans, and demanded compensation for its full value. 

284 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 


A Persian Marriage — Khorassan — Kermanshah — Tag-i-Bostan 
— The Loves of Ferhad and Shireen — Bisitoon — Dancing- 
Girls — Hamadan — Tombs of Esther and Mordecai — Climate 
— Sunnies and Shiahs — Passion-Plays. 

" To the High and Lofty One, whose companions are 
greatness and glory, to my kind and beneficent friend : 

* ' Whereas, by the favour of God, and under the 
shadow of the graciousness of his Koyal and Holy 
Majesty the King of Kings (may his Kingdom and 
Sovereignty be perpetual), arrangements have been 
made for the marriage festival and ceremony of my 
son Mirza Moostafa Khan, I, in accordance with the 
precepts of amity and friendship, beg my kind and 
beneficent friend, Mr. Mounsey, to take the trouble 
of coming to my town residence on Monday night, 
one hour and a half after sunset, and partaking of 
sweetmeats and dinner, and making me joyful by 
the sight of his countenance and the benefit of his 

Due allowance being made for the extreme diffi- 
culty of rendering into correct English the super- 
abundance of flowery epithets and expressions of the 
Persian language, the above is a faithful translation 

Invitation to a Marriage Feast. 285 

of an invitation which I received early in the month 
of January, 1867, from the Muyer-el-Moolk, or Minister 
of Finance, on the occasion of his son's marriage with 
one of the Shah's daughters. The functionary in 
question owed this apparent distinction to the riches 
which his tenure of the most lucrative office under the 
Persian crown, and his prudent observance of the 
practices traditional in it, had enabled him to accumu- 
late. The greater part of the revenue,* which amounts 
to about two millions sterling, passes through the 
hands of the Minister of Finance ; not like water 
through a sieve, but leaving a percentage, varying 
according to circumstances, behind it. He is charged 
with the payment of the chief items of national ex- 
penditure,! and, having always a considerable sum 

* The revenue is raised from a tax, varying from twenty to thirty 
per cent, on all cultivated lands, except those belonging to the church ; 
from imposts on gardens, vineyards, mills, watercourses, wells, shops, 
beasts of burthen, cattle, sheep, and goats; and from duties on 
exports and imports. The former, chiefly silks and carpets, were 
valued in 1866, at 1,600,000/., and the latter, consisting of cotton 
and woollen goods and hardware, at 2,400,000/. 

f The expenditure is thus distributed : — Army, 720,000/. ; Civil 
Service, 300,000/. ; Church, 100,000/. ; Extraordinary, 200,000/. ; 
Total, 1,320,000/. Persia has no public debt. The surplus of the 
revenue is paid into the King's privy purse for the expenses of his 
court, harem, &c. ; and the residue, after this payment, into his 
private treasury, which is said to contain above a million and a half 
sterling, besides jewels and plate to the value of two millions. 
Amongst the jewels the finest are the Darya-noor, weighing 178 
carats, and valued at 200,000/., and the English diamond, which 
weighs 78 carats, and was presented by George IV. to Futteh Ali 

286 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

of ready money at his disposal for this purpose, he 
can turn a pretty penny by lending at high interest. 
His patronage also — whichhe, of course, never dispenses 
gratuitously — brings him in a handsome income. 

These opportunities had not been neglected by 
the Muyer. He had used them prudently and very 
advantageously for a number of years, but latterly 
his great wealth had somewhat turned his head and 
made him forget that a Persian subject must conceal 
both his prosperity and power if he wishes to retain 
them. During the previous year he had built himself a 
country palace not far from Tehran, the beauty and 
luxury of which became so much the talk of the court 
and town, that the Shah thought it advisable to put 
a stop to what he considered a piece of improper 
ostentation. With this view he asked his minister 
for whom he had built his beautiful palace. The 
Muyer, who well knew the purport of this question, 
and had made up his mind to execute himself grace- 
fully, at once replied that it was for his Majesty if he 
would deign to accept it. About this there was no 
difficulty, and it accordingly became royal property. 
He was still, however, a very rich man ; too rich for 
the royal mind to be quite easy about him : he must 
be bled a little more, but in a gracious manner. The 
King had a daughter to marry, and the Muyer's son 
was the best parti in the kingdom. The match suited 
the King, because by it he reduced his subject's wealth 
to proper proportions, and secured a portion, at least, 
of it to his own flesh and blood. It likewise suited 

Persian Financing — Marriage Festivities. 287 

the Muyer, who was getting old, and probably had 
reason to think that his tenure of office would not be 
much prolonged ; for though he knew it would cost 
him an enormous sum of money, and that he must 
give a very large dowry to his daughter-in-law, he 
hoped that on her account he would afterwards be 
left in the undisturbed enjoyment of the rest of his 
fortune, and this he no doubt argued was well worth 
the price he had to pay for it. 

Accordingly the marriage was arranged and the 
diplomatic body was invited to some of the festivities ; 
which, in conformity with the custom of the country, 
lasted seven clays. On the first of them the 
ceremony took place : it was short and simple. The 
bride and bridegroom, who then saw each other for 
the first time, appeared before a mollah with two 
witnesses and declared their desire to enter into the 
bonds of matrimony. A short exhortation to lead a 
good life was addressed to them, the contract was 
signed, and the couple departed ; but not together, 
for though virtually man and wife, etiquette separated 
them during the remaining six days' feasting, which 
was carried on on a grand scale, in the Muyer's 
house, where doors were kept open day and night to 
all comers, and eating and drinking went on con- 
tinuously. It was the finest palace in the town, 
surrounded by large courts and gardens, which on the 
night of our visit we found brilliantly illuminated with 
Bengal lanterns and filled with guests. Traversing 
these, we mounted a handsome staircase, and were 

288 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

welcomed at its top by our host, who had put on his 
bravest apparel and successfully concealed the signs 
of his advanced age by an extra application of indigo 
dye to his beard. He wore a robe of the richest 
cashmere, the Shah's portrait set in diamonds on his 
breast, and a belt studded with brilliants and rubies 
and clasped with a buckle formed of one big emerald. 
After receiving our congratulations, he conducted us 
through several handsome rooms, some of which were 
ablaze with lights reflected from numberless squares 
of mirror glass encrusted in their walls, whilst in others 
there reigned merely a rosy semi-obscurity. We then 
entered a large saloon ornamented from top to bottom 
with the most elaborate stucco modellings, in high 
relief, of trees, flowers, fruits and birds : colour alone 
was wanting to make it appear like a bower. Its 
windows looked on to a garden, where were collected 
all the mummers, rope-dancers, athletes, musicians, 
and singers of the town ; and for an hour or more we 
had to look at and listen to their performances, eat 
sweetmeats, and smoke gold and jewel-headed pipes. 

At last dinner was announced, a meal half European 
half Persian. The West was represented by chairs and 
a table crowded with a motley array of crystal, bronze, 
and porcelain vases filled with fruits and flowers ; by a 
complete service of plate, glass, and earthenware, and a 
menu containing twenty-five dishes : the East, by large 
bowls of sherbet and mountains of rice, by a constant 
din of tomtoms and guitars, by the wild discordant 
ditties of a troop of singers squatted on the carpets, 

Magnificent Decorations and Costumes. 289 

and by dancing-boys in female costume, who kept 
turning continually round the table, and accompanying 
their measured movements with castanets. Amongst 
the guests were several of the greatest men in Persia. 
They, too, had donned their richest robes and finest 
jewels and brought their prettiest pages with them ; 
handsome youths many of them, beautifully dressed, 
and evidently treated more as favourites than menials 
by their masters, for their only duties were serving 
coffee, sherbet, and pipes. The bridegroom was not 
present at dinner, but when his health was proposed 
the Muyer sent to request his attendance. He entered 
the room escorted by a train of servants bearing lighted 
candelabra, made a low bow, and then stood still for a 
while with downcast looks, without uttering a word, 
like a man afflicted with all the woes of humanity, 
or about to mount the scaffold ; having thus shown 
his good breeding, according to Eastern notions, he 
departed as he had come. After dinner — which lasted 
many hours, and would ha^e been insupportably tedious 
to us had we not, by the advice of our host, caused 
our servants to bring a supply of wine from our own 
cellars, and was dreadfully fatiguing to the Persians, 
who hate sitting on chairs — there was a grand display 
of fireworks, in the manufacture of which the natives 
are great adepts ; we were then ushered into a dimly 
lighted hall, thickly carpeted and cushioned, where 
more music and fresh bevies of boy-dancers helped to 
while away the hours until midnight. 

A few nights later we witnessed the last ceremony 


290 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

of a Persian marriage, — the bringing home of the 
bride. As she was a royal princess, the troops were 
on duty, each man with a burning candle in the place 
of his bayonet, to light the procession on its way from 
the Palace to the bridegroom's home. Torchmen led 
the way and were followed by several military bands, 
all playing different discords at the same time. Then, 
surrounded by courtiers, ferrashes and troops, came an 
elephant in red trappings bearing a turret on his back, 
in which were the Muyer, one of his wives, and the 
bride enveloped in a veil of silver tissue spangled with 
jewels : a ladder being carried close behind them in 
case of accidents. This was succeeded by a dozen 
takhterawans — covered litters borne on poles by two 
mules, containing the bride's women and trousseau, 
and by more troops and servants. 

This marriage is said to have cost the Muyer 
160,000/., viz. 80,000/. for the bride's dowry and the 
seven days' feasting, 60,000/. as a present to the King, 
and 20,000/. to the Queen-mother. But then in a 
country where no man can call his house his own, half 
your own loaf is better than no bread. A short time 
afterwards, the Shah bestowed the hand of his sister on 
the son of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and we had 
more fetes, but on a much smaller scale ; for, unlike his 
colleague of the Exchequer, the Persian Foreign Secre- 
tary has few opportunities of putting money in his pocket. 

Spring came on early, and about the 15th of March 
the natives began their usual preparations for their 
great national festival of New Year's Day. Each 

Bringing Home the Bride — New Years Day. 291 

night at sunset much powder was blown away in 
saluting the coming new year, and during the day 
many rockets were despatched aloft, apparently for 
the gratification afforded by the noise of their re- 
ports. The astrologers, who had been busy with 
their calculations for some time, announced that 
the sun would enter Aries at half-past 4 a.m. on 
the 21st of the month, and it was fully expected that 
in accordance with all precedent, the Shah would, like 
a good orthodox Shah-in-Shah, at that moment admit 
his Ministers and the functionaries of his Court to the 
usual private salaam. The earliness of the hour, how- 
ever, being inconvenient, his Majesty sent for the wise 
men, and assured them they were out in their reckoning, 
and that it was quite impossible that the year could 
commence before he had had his customary amount of 
sleep. Whether they were originally wrong in their 
calculations, or adapted them, subsequently to this 
interview, to the wishes of their master, does not 
appear ; but it was not until half-past seven o'clock 
that the year 1283 of the Hejira began. 

His Majesty received us with the usual ceremony 
and announced his approaching departure from the 
capital on a visit to the province of Khorassan. His 
motives for this visit were twofold, spiritual and 
temporal : firstly, to overawe the Turcoman tribes on 
the northern frontiers of the kingdom, who had lately 
been making incursions and carrying off a good many 
of his subjects into slavery ; and secondly, to perform 
a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Meshed, the most holy 

292 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

place in Persia. Great preparations were requisite for 
this journey, for Meshed is 500 miles from Tehran, 
and a large force is necessary to prevent the possi- 
bility of an attack from the marauders who constantly 
infest the road. Some weeks were therefore employed 
in collecting troops and provisions in a temporary 
camp near the town. In April all was ready, and his 
Majesty started with 16,000 soldiers and camp-followers 
and several cannon. A friend of mine, who accompanied 
him, wrote me the following lines from Meshed : — 

" A more uninteresting place than this to any one 
but a Mahometan pilgrim you can scarcely conceive, 
and indeed the same thing may be said of the whole 
march from Tehran, with the exception of the tur- 
quoise mines and the district of Nishapore, which is 
extremely rich and fertile. These two places are the 
only points worth notice on the road. The rest is a 
howling wilderness, with here and there a miserable 
village and a paltry stream of water just sufficient to 
irrigate a few fields. Damghan, Semnan, and Bostam 
are towns more than half ruined. Shahrood is a 
little better, having some trade and showing some 
signs of life. Sebzewar is only partially ruined. 
Outside Meshed, the country is rather worse than the 
neighbourhood of other Persian towns — quite a desert 
apparently. Within the walls, which are twelve miles 
in circuit, a large extent is taken up with fields and 
well tenanted cemeteries. The Shrine and Mosque 
are very handsome. We saw no wild asses on the 
road, but the Shah had one brought to him, and we 

Journey of the Shall to Khorassan — Meshed. 293 

got a portion of it, which we cooked in various ways 
and ate, without however relishing our dinner ; to 
my taste it was something between bad pork and 
venison, rather tough and coarse, and decidedly not to 
be preferred to mutton or beef. It is quite possible that 
before this journey is over, I may have brought myself 
to look upon Gulhek as a sort of earthly paradise." 

Whilst my friend, from whom I subsequently 
received this information — all I can give about the 
province of Khorassan — was journeying eastwards, I 
myself started off in a south-westerly direction, and 
after posting for 300 miles in three-and-a-half clays, 
reached Kermanshah on the 21st of April. Thence 
it was my intention to proceed to Baghdad. Several 
reasons, however, induced me to change my plans. 
The time at my disposal was so short that I could 
have paid merely a flying visit to the city of the 
Caliphs ; the distance thither was above 200 miles, 
the hot weather was coming on, and the Engineer 
officer who superintends the telegraphs in this quarter 
of the kingdom was about to march back to Tehran. 
So I determined to retrace my steps, and visit, at 
leisure and in the society of an agreeable companion, 
the numerous objects of interest which I had galloped 
past during the preceding days. . 

Kermanshah* is situated at the south-western 

* In the neighbourhood of Kermanshah are made the carpets so 
justly admired in Europe for their brilliant and durable colours as 
well as for their elaborate designs. In addition to these qualities, 
they have another and useful one — each side is presentable. 

294 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

extremity of a noble plain, well watered by three 
considerable streams, which on their junction not far 
southwards take the name of Karasoo, and discharge 
their waters into the Tigris near Bassora. It contains 
from 20,000 to 25,000 inhabitants, but no buildings 
or mosques worthy of note. A day within its mud 
walls sufficed for repose, and, our caravan being 
already organized, we quitted it, twenty-four hours 
after my arrival, on our return journey. 

Four miles to the north of the town is a romantic 
spot, called Tag-i-Bostan, renowned throughout this 
portion of Persia for the limpidity of its springs, and 
some very fine sculptures, which commemorate the 
loves of Khosroo Purviz, Shireen, and Ferhad. At 
the base of a mountain of sombre rock rising per- 
pendicularly from the plain, a large volume of the 
purest water comes gurgling up to daylight in the 
lower chambers of a summer-house lately constructed 
by the governor of the province, and after feeding a 
large reservoir, escapes in graceful falls to the plain, 
spreading verdure on all sides. All around are weep- 
ing willows, drooping their feathery branches into the 
cool pellucid stream, to meet the kiss of golden- 
centred lilies, or to caress the blushing rose and 
retiring iris; and close by are park-like groups of 
trees, rising here and there on the greenest turf. 
The spring is still called Shireen, the Persian word 
for sweet, and the legend of the beauty who is thus 
immortalized in its waters is still the common talk of 
the neighbourhood. 

Kermanshah — Tag-i-Bostan — Legend of Shireen. 295 

In the beginning of the seventh century, Hormuz 
king of Persia was dethroned by one of his generals, 
and his son Khosroo fled for protection to the Court 
of the Roman Emperor Maurice. There he fell 
violently in love with Shireen, whom tradition makes 
out to have been the Emperor's daughter. He married 
her, and by the assistance of his father-in-law soon 
recovered his kingdom, and returned with his lovely 
bride to his own capital. He loved his wife to idolatry, 
and being desirous of perpetuating her beauty, sought 
an artist able to carve her likeness in stone. Ferhad, 
the most celebrated sculptor, and, at the same time, 
the handsomest youth of his age, presented himself as 
a candidate for the work, and at first sight became 
madly enamoured of Shireen; who, it appears, was 
not untouched by the passion she had excited. His 
love waxed stronger and stronger as he studied more 
closely the fair features and limbs of his model, and 
at last became so franticly wild that he demanded 
the possession of the Queen as the price of the com- 
pletion of his work. Khosroo, who was fascinated 
by the wonderful skill of the artist, gave a rash inti- 
mation of consent. The statue was finished, but 
other works were provided for Ferhad : palaces were 
to be built, reservoirs constructed, mountains of rock 
pierced for the passage of rivers, and fountains made 
to play for the pleasure of Shireen. Nothing daunted 
the sculptor, his love gave strength to his arm and 
accuracy to his chisel; he performed prodigies, and 
at length arrived at the last of the tasks assigned to 

296 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

him. With horror the king saw the moment approach 
when he must pay the debt of his rashness and sur- 
render his idol to another. He determined to rid 
himself of his creditor, and whilst Ferhad was at work 
high up on the rocks, sent an old woman to tell him 
that his toil was now useless, for Shireen was dead. 
In an agony of despair the sculptor seized the unlucky 
messenger, and throwing himself with her from the 
top of the peak, was dashed to pieces. When the 
fate of her lover was told to her, Shireen " drooped 
her head and withered like the rose deserted by the 
nightingale." Khosroo, disconsolate and broken by 
remorse, caused the lovers to be interred in one grave, 
with the old woman's corpse between them ; and the 
villagers say that at Kasr Shireen (a hamlet on the 
road to Baghdad) two rose-trees and a thistle mark 
the spot where the luckless couple and their betrayer 
lie buried. Such is the legend ; but history tells us 
that Shireen was the most faithful and loving of wives, 
and that, when Khosroo was murdered by his son, she 
stabbed herself on her husband's body to escape the 
incestuous embraces of the murderer. 

The principal sculpture is protected by an arch, 
several feet in depth, hewn out of the rock, and is 
divided into two compartments. In the upper one, 
Khosroo appears on foot between Shireen and Mau- 
rice ; in the lower, he is alone on horseback, habited 
in chain armour, and poising a spear. The figures 
are in the same style as those at Shapoor, but in higher 
relief. On each side of the arch there are some 

Sculptures of Tag-i-Bostan and Bisitoon. 297 

remarkable bas-reliefs, representing hunting-parties. 
The scene of one of them is laid in a swamp, where 
troops of wild-boars are being slaughtered by men 
armed with bows and arrows, and either mounted on 
elephants or seated in boats, whilst ladies play an 
accompaniment on harps. The subject of another is 
a stag-hunt. Near it lies a torso, so mutilated as 
hardly to be recognizable ; perhaps the remains of 
Ferhad's statue of Shireen. 

After breakfasting near her cool fountain, we rode 
on again along the base of the mountains which bound 
the vale of Kermanshah to the north, and towards 
evening arrived at Bisitoon, alias Behistun, alias 
Bagistan, where they terminate in an abrupt bold mass 
of rock 2,000 feet high. On its perpendicular face are 
the famous sculptures which so long engaged the 
attention and puzzled the brains of savans, and were 
never satisfactorily explained until Sir H. Rawlinson 
copied and deciphered the cuneiform inscriptions upon 
them. Persepolitan in style and execution, they 
represent a king holding up his right hand with an 
authoritative air, and treacling on a prostrate body ; 
with his feroher, or guardian angel, above him, two 
armed attendants behind him, and nine captives, with 
their hands bound behind their backs and a rope round 
their necks, before him. They are so high up that it was 
only by the aid of a field-glass that I could make them 
out ; hence it is, no doubt, that travellers have given 
such different accounts of them. Some have taken 
the figures for the twelve apostles, and the feroher for 

298 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

the cross; others have maintained that the scene 
depicted is the carrying away into captivity of 
the ten tribes by Salmanezer. The readers of 

cuneiform have now decided that the subject is the 


apotheosis of Darius, and that the sculptures date 
from B.C. 515. 

Below them a large portion of the rock has been cut 
down to a flat surface, and along its base there is a 
narrow gallery, about 150 feet in length and pro- 
vided with a low parapet, hewn out of the mountain. 
In front of this are the remains of a terrace wall, 
composed of enormous blocks of stone, some wrought, 
others rough. The origin and purpose of these works 
are unknown, but Diodorus Siculus and tradition 
ascribe them, the one to Semiramis— who, he says, 
halted here on her way to Ecbatana, and performed 
the gymnastic feat of ascending to the top of the moun- 
tain by means of a staircase formed out of the packs 
and fardels of the beasts of her caravan ; and the 
other, to Khosroo, who is stated to have here caused a 
palace to be built for Shireen by Ferhad. 

The village of Bisitoon, which lies immediately 
under the rock, is a very miserable one, but having a 
tent with us we had fortunately no necessity to enter 
it. Next day we marched sixteen miles through a 
green and fertile country to Sahna, a hamlet inhabited 
principally by members of the Susmani tribe, which 
is said to practise communism in all things, and is 
therefore kept at a respectable distance from the good 
Mussulmans of the interior. The women of the tribe, 

Susmani Dancing -Girls — Ruins of a Temple. 299 

who have no prejudices about veils, or indeed about 
anything else, are accounted the best dancers in Persia ; 
so, having a long afternoon before us, we requested 
the attendance of some of them in a shady garden 
near our tent. Two damsels, accompanied by an 
aged male relative who acted the parts of chaperon 
and tappeur, accepted our invitation. They had 
bronzed gipsy-like features, fine black eyes, and good 
figures, which the peculiarities of their costume allowed 
to be seen a little more perhaps than is compatible with 
our conventional ideas of fitness ; it consisted of bright 
scarlet kerchiefs twisted into their streaming black 
locks, a short shift — so short that their elaborately 
tatooed waists were at each movement exposed to 
view — and parti-coloured skirts descending from the 
loins to the knees. Necks, arms, legs, and feet were 
bare, and adorned with armlets, bracelets, and strings 
of coins. Their dancing was like that of the Almae 
and Bayaderes, a succession of plastic movements, 
proceeding principally from the hip, and in which all 
the members of the body participated in produciDg an 
alluring effect. After performing for an hour or so, 
they drank tea and smoked kalians with us, and 
departed well satisfied with a present of a few francs. 

Our next stage was twenty-four miles, through 
narrow grassy valleys shut in by rugged hills, to the 
village of Kangawar, which is stated to be the site of 
Elymais ; the arguments in favour of this statement 
being the shafts of several enormous marble columns, 
ten feet in diameter, which rise from a basement of 

300 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

large squared stones and are built into one of its mud 
hovels. They are supposed to be the remains of a 
temple, dedicated, in the days when Zoroaster's reli- 
gion was corrupted by the Magi, to Astarte, the Queen 
of Heaven, and which was plundered about two centuries 
before our era by Antiochus Epiphanius : about whom 
I confess to knowing nothing further. The two 
following days were devoted to shooting on a swampy 
plain, which extends from Kangawar to Sahadabad 
(a distance of twenty-four miles) and is a favourite 
haunt of wild-fowl. Our sport was very fair, and we 
were lucky in finding and bagging a considerable 
number of solitary snipe, which formed a most deli- 
cious addition to our camp fare. At Sahadabad we 
quitted the verdant province of Kermanshah, and 
after a steep ascent of four miles, had a long march of 
twenty more along the brown slopes of the Elvend 
chain to Zageh ; here the village squire, a tribal chief- 
tain, invited us to a drinking-bout, at which he got so 
tipsy that he was carried off to bed by his servants 
at four o'clock in the afternoon. A ride of ten miles 
next morning brought us to Hamadan, where we found 
our tent pitched in a charming garden on the edge 
of a reservoir of the purest water : the greatest luxury, 
because so rare, in Persia. 

It is now agreed on all hands that Hamadan 
stands on the site of Ecbatana, the capital of the 
great Median empire founded by Dejoces — Arphaxad 
of the Bible — B.C. 709. " Dejoces," wrote Herodotus, 
" the founder of Median independence, compelled the 

Walls of E chat ana— Its former Magnificence. 301 

Medes to build themselves one single town, and to 
attend to adorning it without taking much account of 
the others. The Medes obeyed, and he created a 
large strong place, the same which is now called 
Ecbatana, fortified with concentric walls, so arranged 
that each circular wall was higher than the preceding 
one by the battlements only ; the site, which was on 
a hill, contributed in some measure to this plan, 
but it was principally so constructed by design : the 
whole number of circles was seven, and within the 
innermost stood the palace and treasury. The largest 
of these walls is nearly equal in extent to the ram- 
parts of Athens ; the battlements of the first circle 
are white ; those of the second are black ; those of the 
third, purple ; those of the fourth, blue ; those of the 
fifth, buff: thus the battlements of five circles are coloured 
with paint ; but the two inmost have their battlements 
covered, the one with silver, the other with gold." 

Supposing its palaces and buildings to have 
been on the same scale of magnificence as its walls, 
Ecbatana was probably then the grandest city in 
the world. Its terraced parks and groves are said 
to have been so beautiful that it was from them that 
the wife of Nebuchadnezzar drew the model of her 
famous hanging gardens at Babylon. Cyrus the 
Great made it his summer residence, and dated from 
it his order for the rebuilding of Jerusalem ; and, after 
the destruction of the Kaianian dynasty, Alexander 
banqueted and revelled in the golden palace of the 
Medes, and caused the plays of Eschylus to be acted 

302 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

in its courts. Until the third century of our era it 
retained much of its magnificence ; then Tiridates, 
king of Armenia, stript it of its splendour to ornament 
his own capital. Mahomet's fanatical troops overthrew 
much that he had left standing, and the Tartar hordes 
of Tamarlane sacked, pillaged, and ruined the rest. 
Aga Mahomed Khan, the first of the Kajars, completed 
its degradation by ordering every remnant of the past 
to be destroyed, even to the iron gates which still 
hung from its crumbling walls. Here and there the 
remains of solid stone foundations cropping up above 
the surface of the soil, or a block of marble pro- 
jecting from a mud-built hovel, may still be seen ; 
but this is all there is to remind one of its former 

The modern Hamadan is only distinguished from 
other Persian cities by the natural advantages of its 
situation on the slope of Mount Elvend, whence copious 
streams of water descend to traverse its streets and 
alleys, and irrigate its numerous gardens and fertile plain . 
Were it not for these, the town would probably long ago 
have become a shapeless mass of ruins. As it is, it leads 
a languishing sort of existence and shows many marks 
of continuous decay, such as deserted dwellings and 
crumbling walls. The inhabitants, about 30,000 in 
number, gain their livelihood chiefly by the manu- 
facture of leather, for the tanning of which great 
facilities are afforded by the never-failing supply of 
water. They have many superstitions about Elvend, 
the classical Orontes, which towers above the town to 

Hamadan— Mount Elvend — Esther and Mordecai, '303 

a height of 10,000 feet, and say that certain herbs 
and grasses which grow upon its sides— but which have 
apparently not yet been found, or, if found, have been 
improperly applied— have the property of curing all 
diseases, and of transmuting the baser metals into 
gold : they also believe the philosopher's stone lies 
hidden in its entrails. The origin of this latter belief 
is explained by the existence near the top of the 
mountain of some arrow-headed inscriptions, to which 
the natives have given the name of " Gunj Nahmeh " — 
" History of the Treasure,' ' and which they say, when 
read with the proper key, will indicate the exact position 
of the stone— and the means of getting at it. I am 
not aware that these inscriptions have been deciphered 
by our cuneiform professors, nor had I time to ascend 
the mountain and visit them. 

The only objects of interest in the town are the 
tombs of Queen Esther and Mordecai. The original 
structure, which covered their remains, is said to have 
been destroyed by Tamarlane ; the present one was 
erected soon afterwards at the expense of the Jewish 
inhabitants of the place. It is a square building of 
brick, surmounted by a dome, sadly in want of repair, 
and much resembling a Persian mosque. The door, 
which is a single slab of stone, opening from one side 
on its own pivots, is so small that we could only enter 
it in a stooping posture. Inside is a vestibule in 
which are the graves of several Kabbis, and from it, 
a still smaller door, through which it was necessary to 
creep on hands and knees, admitted us to the tombs— 

304 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

two sarcophagi of dark wood, lying immediately under 
the centre of the dome, and ornamented with rich 
carving and Hebrew inscriptions. The walls around 
are likewise covered with writing, and let into one of 
them, is a block of white marble, which is said to have 
formed a part of the original sepulchre of Mordecai. 
Engraved upon it, in Hebrew character, is this in- 
scription : — 

" Mordecai, beloved and honoured by a King, was great and 
good ; bis garments were as those of a Sovereign. Ahasuerus 
covered him with this rich dress, and also placed a golden chain 
around his neck. The city of Susa rejoiced at his honours, and his 
high fortune became the glory of the Jews." 

The inscription on the tomb of Esther has been 
translated as follows : — 

"I praise thee, God, that thou hast created me! I know 
that my sins merit punishment, yet I hope for mercy at thy hands, 
for whenever I call upon thee, thou art with me : thy holy presence 
secures me from evil. 

" My heart is at ease and my fear of thee increases. My life 
became, through thy goodness, at the last full of peace. 

" God ! do not shut my soul out from thy divine presence ! 
Those whom thou lovest never feel the torments of hell. Lead me, 
merciful Father, to the life of life ; that I may be filled with the 
heavenly fruits of Paradise ! Esther." 

On the sarcophagus of Mordecai are the following 
sentences : — 

"It is said by David, Preserve me, God ! I am now in thy 
presence. I have cried at the gate of heaven, that thou art my God ; 
and what goodness I have received came from thee, Lord ! 

" Those, whose bodies are now beneath in this earth, when 
animated by thy mercy, were great ; and whatever happiness was 
bestowed upon them in this world, came from thee, God ! 

Inscriptions on the Tombs — The Book of Esther. 305 

" Their griefs and sufferings were many, at the first, but they 
became happy, because they always called upon thy holy name in 
their miseries. Thou liftedst me up, and I became powerful. Thine 
enemies sought to destroy me in the early times of my life ; but the 
shadow of thy hand was upon me and covered me, as a tent, from 
their wicked purposes ! Mordecai." 

The Eabbi who showed us the tombs informed 
us that they were dated 1718 years after Alexander, 
which would be equivalent to a. d. 1387, and that 
his co-religionists regard them with great reverence, 
and make frequent pilgrimages to them from all parts 
of the country. His name was Lalazar or the Tulip 
Bed, and he wore a large blue turban and a rich silk 
abba of a brickdust colour, which showed his features 
and figure, the handsomest I have almost ever seen, 
to great advantage. From the ostentation thus mani- 
fested in his dress and other facts related to us, it 
appears that the Jews are less molested in Hamadan 
than in other Persian towns. 

The book of Esther is so graphically written and 
the manners and customs of Persians have undergone 
so little change since her times, that on re-perusing it 
in my tent, I could, without at all straining my 
imagination, easily conceive all the incidents of the 
story occurring at the present day. A modern Vashti 
might at any moment be disgraced and succeeded by 
a new favourite whose influence might become supreme 
with her lord. A modern Haman might, in like 
manner, arise to dispute her power over his sovereign's 
mind : he might, even at this day, obtain a decree for 
the banishment at least of all Jews from the kingdom. 


306 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

Now, as in the times of Esther, the favourite wife would 
"stand in the inner court of the king's house, over 
against the king's house," at the risk of her life : now, as 
then, she might procure the reversal of the decree, and 
" letters sealed with the king's ring would be sent by 
posts on horseback and riders on mules, camels, and 
young dromedaries," to " the lieutenants and deputies 
and rulers of the provinces," countermanding the 
king's orders. Finally, now as then, her relations 
would at the king's command be "arrayed in royal 
apparel of blue and white, and with a garment of fine 
linen and purple," and the minister, her rival, might 
be hanged ona" gallows fifteen cubits high." 

There is one other interesting tomb at Hamad an, 
that of the philosopher Avicenna. On his stone 
sarcophagus, which is protected by a small mud 
building and is situated in the Mussulman cemetery, 
his Persian name, Aboo Sennah, is inscribed. 

Having thus seen all the lions of the place, we 
had but one more visit to make, to the Isz-ed-Dowleh — 
Glory of the State, a half-brother of the Shah and 
governor of the province, who had expressed a wish 
to see us. Sunrise was his highness's reception hour, 
and on our proceeding to the palace, we found the 
corpses of three villagers lying immediately before the 
gate. They had been killed in a brawl on the previous 
day, and been brought into the town by their relatives 
for exposure to the governor's eyes, until the murderers 
should be punished or an award of blood-money 
granted; a method of obtaining justice of common 

Visit to the Isz-ed-Doivleh — A Waterspout. 307 

occurrence in Mahometan countries, where to refuse 
or delay interment is considered the extreme of inhu- 
manity. The prince, who is very like the Shah, was 
suffering from an attack of ague, and had put on over 
his handsome Persian dress a thick military great- 
coat of European cut, which gave him a most eccentric 
appearance. His manners were most polished and agree- 
able, and he seemed better educated than most men of 
his rank, for he was able to speak a few words of French 
and showed a considerable knowledge of geography. 

Between Hamadan and Tehran there are seven 
stages, viz. Melagird, Zerreh, Noveran, Kushkek, 
Khaneabad, and Kolmeh. The distance is 190 miles, 
and the country through which the road runs is a 
succession of plains and passes, generally barren and 
arid, and sparsely inhabited. There being nothing to 
see, we performed the journey as quickly as possible 
on post-horses, and re-entered Tehran on the 1st of 
May in a tremendous thunderstorm, which washed 
down several houses in the town and neighbourhood. 

A week later, when strolling one cloudy afternoon 
in the Mission garden, I saw the whole population of 
the neighbourhood on the housetops and ramparts, 
casting anxious looks towards the mountains. Follow- 
ing their example and mounting to my upper chamber, 
I soon perceived the cause of their anxiety. A water- 
spout had burst about three miles to the north, and a 
huge torrent was rolling down the hill slopes towards 
the town. It came on at a great pace, washing 
down the mud walls of the gardens and the houses of 

308 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

sun-dried brick in the suburbs as if they had been 
built of cardboard, and sweeping everything before it. 
The town ditch was soon rilled, and the water not 
finding sufficient exit to the plain, began to flood its 
low-lying quarters. In a few minutes more than 120 
houses had melted away, as it were, and been con- 
verted into a lake of liquid mud, in which floated 
beams, rafters, and furniture. The flood luckily sub- 
sided before further damage was done, but had it been 
fed by a second water- spout the whole of the capital 
would inevitably have been destroyed, since no modern 
Persian buildings can resist the action of water. So 
frail are they that twenty-four hours' rain is a cause of 
much apprehension to householders, and always 
necessitates a good deal of patching to walls and 
roofs, if not their total reconstruction. Happily moist 
days are very rare, and I find from a register which I 
kept (hydrometers don't exist at Tehran) , that during 
the first six months of 1867 there were only forty- 
nine days on which snow or rain fell, and that on 
thirty-four of these we had merely slight showers or a 
few drops. There were thus only fifteen days on 
which any considerable amount of moisture reached 
the earth. The second half of the year is generally 
dryer than the first : in August and July rain never 
falls. Towards the autumnal equinox there are some 
stormy wet days. During October and November 
the sky is generally cloudless, and it is only late in 
December that snow begins to fall. 

The sensation caused in the town by the above 

A Flood — Origin of the Shiah Sect. 309 

catastrophe, in which several persons lost their lives, 
had hardly subsided when the Moharrem or month of 
annual mourning for the death of the sons of Ali came 
round, and preparations were commenced for the 
Passion Plays with which that event is commemorated 
all over Persia. Before proceeding to give a sketch of 
those I saw, I must say a few words relative to their 
subject and to the two rival sects of Mahometans. 

The Persians, as is well known, were not voluntary 
converts to the religion of Mahomet. When the last 
of their monarchs of the Sassanian dynasty, Yezdigird, 
was defeated and killed by the Saracens, they accepted 
it as a consequence of the loss of their independence. 
The victors offered them their choice between the 
book, the sword, and the tribute. They took the book ; 
but they took it with much reluctance, and it appears 
doubtful whether their descendants under the suc- 
cessive rule of the Caliphs, the Seljuks, and the 
Moguls ever became conscientious adherents of the 
new Faith. It probably always reminded them of 
their subjugation by alien races, and thus brought 
them to think that dissent from the religious opinions 
of the Turks, Arabs, Tartars, and Affghans, who 
surrounded them, would be the only means of throwing 
off a foreign yoke and reconstituting themselves as an 
independent nationality. That some such feeling 
existed may be presumed from the fact, that when in 
the fourteenth century Sultan Mahomed Khodabund, 
King of Persia, publicly declared himself of the sect of 
Ali, his example was at once followed by the whole 

310 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

nation. On still stronger grounds may it be presumed 
that the Sultan's declaration was made rather for 
political purposes than from religious conviction. 
Since his time all Persians have remained adherents 
of that sect and have been called Shiahs, in contra- 
distinction to all other Mahometans, who go by the 
name of Sunnies ; an appellation derived from the word 
Soona — law. The chief point of controversy between 
the two sects relates to the succession to the Cali- 
phate. The Sunnies hold that Aboubekre, Omar, and 
Othman were lawful successors of Mahomet, and that 
their interpretation of the Koran is the only legitimate 
one. The Shiahs on the contrary consider these three 
Caliphs as usurpers, and their writings as heretical, 
and affirm that Ali was the second Caliph, and that 
his commentaries are alone correct. 

The facts upon which this controversy bears are 
as follows. Mahomet had no sons, and gave his only 
daughter Fatima in marriage to his cousin Ali. When 
he died, a dispute arose between Ali and Aboubekre, 
Mahomet's father-in-law, as to which of them was the 
rightful successor. Aboubekre won the day, and was 
in turn succeeded, in spite of the protests and opposi- 
tion of Ali, by Omar and Othman. On the death of 
the latter, the party of Ali were at last able to raise 
their candidate to the Caliphate ; but after a short 
reign he was assassinated in the mosque of Cufa, and 
his son Hossein laid claim to his succession. Accom- 
panied by his wife, a daughter of Yezdigird, and his 
children, he set out for Cufa, in the hope of there 

Subject of the Persian Passion Plays, 811 

finding support ; but was overtaken in the desert plain 
of Kerbela, not far from the Tigris, by the troops of 
Yezyd, who was already installed as Caliph. Hossein's 
little band, surrounded and cut off from the river by 
superior forces, suffered torments from heat and thirst. 
One after the other his followers were massacred as 
they attempted to pierce the circle of their enemies 
and procure water for the women and children ; 
and, finally, he and his male children were killed, 
whilst slavery became the lot of his female relations. 

On this story, many of the details of which are 
exceedingly touching and dramatic, are based the 
Passion Plays,* which are the most perfect expression 
of the feeling with which Ali and Hossein are regarded 
by all Persians. For them Ali is not only the prophet, 
but also the vicar of God : Hossein is not only a 
saintly martyr, but also the door of Paradise, and 
through his wife, the representative of one of their 
native dynasties. The descendants of their murderers, 
the Sunnies, are therefore hated by them with a hatred, 
the intensity of which is only equalled by that of the 
reverence and adoration paid to Ali and Hossein. 

The plays, or tazyehs as they are called, are held 
in tekkyehs, large canvas tents erected for the pur- 
pose in the public squares, and have become so much 
part and parcel of the Shiah religion that it is con- 
sidered a meritorious action to contribute furniture 

* For a complete and most interesting account of these Passion 
Plays, vide Les Religions et les Philosoj)liies dans VAsie Centrale, by 
M. de Gobineau. 

312 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

for their decoration and costumes for the actors : indeed 
a refusal to do so exposes its author to vituperation 
and persecution. The Shah and most of his grandees 
have their own private tekkyehs, which are fitted up 
with considerable splendour; but, though application 
is frequently made to Europeans for the articles which 
are required for the dresses of the foreign ambas- 
sadors, who play an important part in them by inter- 
ceding with Yezyd for the lives of Hossein's family, 
Christians are now as absolutely excluded from these 
performances, as they are from all the mosques and the 
baths used by Mussulmans. I was, therefore, obliged 
to content myself with witnessing two of the ten acts 
into which the drama is divided — one for each of the ten 
days of mourning — in an inferior or bourgeois tekkyeh, 
the proprietor of which happened to be a personal 
friend of mine, and a man of sufficient influence and 
standing to disregard, for once in a way, the popular 
prejudice against the admission of foreigners to these 
mysteries. His tekkyeh was arranged somewhat after 
the manner of a theatre, and tastefully ornamented 
with carpets, shawl hangings, vases of flowers, mirrors 
and candelabra. On each side of the stage were two 
or three boxes for the owner and his intimate friends ; 
but the mass of the audience, in which the fair sex 
(veiled, of course,) predominated, was seated on the 
ground in the pit, where tea, coffee, sherbet, and pipes 
were handed round during the entr'actes. 

By way of prelude to the piece, a band of music 
traversed the stage, playing a most dismal air. Yezyd, 

Performance of a Persian Passion Play. 313 

made to look as fierce and inhuman as possible, then 
entered, attired in red cloth-of-gold and wearing a 
huge Arab turban, and placed himself on his throne, 
an iron bedstead covered with cushions. He appeared 
to be suffering much mental and bodily pain, the 
cause of which he attributed, in a long oration and 
with many curses, to his enemy and rival, Hossein ; 
he rolled himself about on his throne in contortions, 
in vain seeking relief from the contents of several 
medicine-bottles which stood on a table beside him. 
A fatal termination to his illness seemed imminent, 
when a warrior in chain -arm our arrived with the head 
of Hossein in a dish, — a sight so grateful to Yezyd, 
that he threw his medicines away and at once recovered 
his health. Then, mounted on camels, and dressed in 
black, the members of Hossein's family were brought 
before him by his general, Shamar, who detailed 
at length the circumstances of their capture. They 
had each of them a supply of straw and ashes, which 
they scattered profusely on their heads as they told 
their pitiful tale and entreated clemency from their 
conqueror. Yezyd remained unmoved by their en- 
treaties, maltreated the women, and was on the point 
of ordering the men to execution when the three 
foreign ambassadors were introduced. They entered 
in great state, dressed as far as possible in the 
costume of European diplomates, and preceded by led 
horses, richly caparisoned. 

Unluckily, it had been impossible to find cocked 
hats for the whole party, and the senior and spokes- 

314 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

man of the three was obliged to content himself with 
what is commonly called a chimney-pot. In this 
ludicrous head-piece he made a long intercessionary 
speech to Yezyd, urging him to have mercy on the 
captives ; he fondled the children of Hossein, and, when 
at the Caliph's command the executioner was about to 
cut their throats, rushed across the stage and wrested 
the sword from his hands. But even this active 
intercession was unavailing : the ambassador was 
obliged to surrender the weapon, and the captives 
were led away and supposed to be put to death. 
Thereupon the foreigners, to my disgust, turned 
Mahometans ; and, to my delight, were rewarded by 
Yezyd for their apostasy by being ordered off to be hung. 

Such was the first act. Each of the performers 
in it had his part written on a bit of paper in 
his hand, so as to be able to refresh his memory 
whenever it failed him, and was conducted to his 
proper place and put in position by the prompter ; who 
never quitted the stage, and gave us frequent explana- 
tions of what appeared to him ambiguous in the acting 
or declamation. From the beginning to the end of the 
piece the audience kept up a continuous wailing and 
weeping, which became louder and more vehement at the 
touching moments. The intercession of the foreigners, 
for instance, was received with a great burst of lamenta- 
tions, and at one moment I thought that my host, who 
sat beside me, would choke himself with sobbing. 

The scene of the second act which I saw was laid 
in the desert of Kerbela. Hossein had already been 

Performance of a Persian Passion Play. 315 

killed, and a man in armour was seen bearing his 
head fixed to the end of a lance, through his encamp- 
ment, which was represented by some bits of canvas 
stretched on poles. Near these, three boys, the 
martyr's sons, were laid out in grave-clothes. A 
ferrash approached them, and proceeded with great 
sang-froid, but amidst loud cries of " Wai, wai ! " 
(woe, woe !), and violent expressions of grief on the 
part of the audience, to stick pegs, in the form of 
arrows, into the pretended corpses, and to sprinkle 
them with pomegranate juice, so as to produce the 
effect of blood. A lion was then led in, and made to 
lie down peaceably by the side of the murdered boys, 
in order to show that even wild beasts have better 
hearts than Sunnies, and can commiserate the fate of 
the descendants of Ali. The act terminated by the 
arrival of a band of ruffians who simulated the looting 
of the camp by carrying off a few pots and pans, and 
its burning, by setting fire to a heap of straw, placed 
on the stage for the purpose. The bearer of Hossein's 
head and the Ferrash recounted in turn the whole of 
the tragic story in an exulting tone, and at one time 
seemed in imminent danger of being set upon and 
throttled by the spectators. The performance of the 
lion was saluted with much moaning, and towards the 
end of the representation the whole audience went 
into convulsions of the most passionate grief : a perfect 
phrenzy, in fact ; for the women tore their veils and 
hair, and the men rent their garments, and beat their 
bared breasts until the blood flowed. 

316 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 


Tehran to Resht — Enzelli — Ashorada — Turcomans — Baku, 
Astrakhan, and the Volga. 

The 3rd of July was the day fixed for my departure 
for Europe. The previous night an English officer 
was attacked, on the road I was about to take, by the 
advance guard of a regiment on its march home to 
Azerbaijan to be disbanded. He was cantering along 
by moonlight when he saw his postboy, who was 
leading, struck with a long knife by one of the soldiers ; 
the boy flung his arms in the air, shrieked, and fell 
from his horse. The Englishman and his servant had 
time to swerve from the path and escape a similar fate ; 
but after the lapse of half an hour, sufficient as they 
thought for the soldiers to move on, they attempted 
to return to the spot and pick up the boy. More 
soldiers, however, frustrated this charitable intention 
by charging them with their bayonets, and they there- 
fore rode away to the next post-house to give notice 
of the murder. There no one believed their story ; in 
fact I subsequently found, that a small sum of money 
which the Englishman left for the boy's parents was 

An English Officer attached — Hot and dusty ride. 317 

looked upon as blood-money, and considered as a con- 
firmation of what was universally believed along the 
road, viz. that he himself was the murderer. 

The possibility of my falling in with the regiment 
and having a similar rencontre with it was not an 
agreeable prospect ; but as all my preparations were 
already made, and I was anxious to be off as soon 
as possible, I bade adieu to my friends and left the 
capital at the appointed hour. As I mounted my 
horse at dawn the thermometer marked 95° : what 
the heat was at noon I have no idea, but the sun's 
rays raised blisters on my skin, and the air was like 
the breath of a furnace. My road, for 100 miles, was 
the same I had traversed on first coming to Tehran. 
Then the whole country was covered with ice and 
snow; now it was parched, scorched, and burnt. 
The dust and the arid heat of the atmosphere generated 
a thirst which there was no means of slaking except at 
the post stations, at each of which I swallowed a kettle 
of tea like a glass of water : it was therefore with no 
little pleasure that, at sunset, I entered Kasvin, having 
fortunately seen no traces of my friend's assailants of 
the preceding night. 

The first stage from that town towards the Caspian 
is long (seven hours) and fatiguing, one half of it 
being over a barren plain, and the other up a formid- 
able ascent to a wretched village called Kharzan, on 
the top of the Elburz chain ; which is here 9,000 feet 
high, and forms the boundary between the provinces 
of Irak and Ghilan. The view from this point extends, 

318 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

wherever the eye can reach, over a conglomeration of 
the wildest and most desert mountains it is possible to 
imagine. Neither tree nor herb of any description 
seems to grow on them, and their monotonous brown 
colouring is only relieved at rare intervals by reddish 
seams and patches of snow. A steep descent on the 
northern side of the pass brought us to the Shahrood 
(King River), which has some signs of sparse vegetation 
on its banks. Following its course through a lonely 
valley for four hours, we reached Mangil, where I 
hoped to have some sleep ; with this view, I laid 
a thick train of Persian insect powder around my bed, 
which was prepared on the clay floor of the post- 
house, hoping thus to keep out the vermin, for which 
and for its windiness this place is notorious. But either 
the powder was spurious or the insects of Mangil are 
insensible to its effects, for they broke through my 
lines of circumvallation on all sides, entered my 
fortress, and drove out the garrison. After tossing 
about for an hour or so, I was so completely covered 
and so terribly bitten by these loathsome swarms, that 
I ordered my horses and rode away at midnight. 

There was luckily a moon, and we could thus see 
our way across a long dilapidated bridge which spans 
the Seffeed Eood, or White River, the largest I know in 
Persia, about a mile below Mangil, and thence over a 
stony road carried along the edge of its precipitous 
banks. The scenery began to change soon after passing 
the bridge, and my eyes greeted with pleasure the 
sight of natural wild trees, which I had not seen since 

Picturesque Forest Scenery — Macadamized Eoad. 819 

leaving the oak forest near Kazeroon fourteen months 
previously. The first we approached were junipers of 
great size, growing thickly on the hill-sides ; lower 
down we traversed plantations of olive-trees in the 
valleys, and on reaching Rustamabad (four hours from 
Mangil) at dawn, found the appearance of the whole 
country so changed that I could hardly believe myself 
still in Persia, and could have imagined I had been 
transported during the night to a Swiss valley. Green 
sward, on which grazed herds of fine cattle, covered the 
low ground, and around it rose hills and mountains 
clothed to their summits with magnificent forests of 
oak, ash, elm, fir, &c., in fact all our European trees. 
Farther on vegetation became still more luxuriant, 
and the path descended through shady green lanes 
where brooks and dark blue pools abound, to Kudum 
on the flat region bordering the Caspian. Hence 
there is a macadamized road (the only one in Persia 
except a small bit six miles in length from Tehran to 
one of the Shah's country palaces) , running through 
virgin forests, where wild grapes were already ripening 
on the topmost branches of the trees ; and underneath 
them were dense thickets of wild fig-trees, pome- 
granate bushes, hops, auricarias, and a species of 
acacia, called by the natives Derakht-i-Abrishum, the 
silk-tree, from its beautiful flower, a deep pink bell, 
out of which grows a bunch of pendent tongues like 
the ends of a skein of silk. Here and there were 
rice fields and mulberry plantations, and huts raised 
on log stages above miasmatic swamps, whose tenants 

320 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

bore evident traces of fever and ague in their haggard 
features. Through this sort of scenery we cantered 
for six hours, reaching Resht in the afternoon of the 
third day's ride from Tehran, the total distance being 
about 220 miles. During this ride I only met one 
traveller, a Gholam of the Shah, who had been sent 
down from the capital to collect arrears of revenue, 
and at whose approach the villagers were decamping 
and concealing themselves in the jungle. 

Eesht, the capital of Ghilan, is situated some 
twenty miles from the sea, and contains about 25,000 
inhabitants, occupied chiefly in the cultivation of the 
silk-worm. It covers a large extent of ground, as 
each house is surrounded by a garden, and within its 
circuit there are several large open spaces like our 
village greens. The houses, bazaars, and mosques are 
built of red kiln-burnt bricks, and have pointed roofs, 
projecting eaves and gable ends ; as is universally the 
case in Ghilan, Mazanderan, and Astrabad, the three 
Caspian provinces of Persia. Altogether the aspect 
of the town is pretty on a fine day — a rare occurrence, 
I was told ; for the amount of rain which falls on this 
northern side of the Elburz chain is as excessive as is 
the aridity to the south of it. The climate would 
seem to be very similar to that of the lower parts of 
Bengal, and a further point of resemblance between 
the two localities may be found in the existence, in 
the jungle, of tigers, wild-boar, pheasants, leeches, 
snakes, &c. 

A good deal of silk is exported from Ghilan (in 

Resht — Exports of Silk— Eclipse of the Moon. 321 

1866 the total amount produced in the province was 
valued at 1,000,000/.), and an English Commercial 
House, that of Ealli and Sons, has a comptoir at 
Eesht ; to which is attached the most comfortable 
dwelling in the whole of Persia, built on the plan of 
an English country-house and fitted up with every 
European comfort. Its owners received me most 
hospitably, and in their society and that of the 
English and Russian consuls, the only other Europeans 
in the place, I passed three very agreeable days. 
Whilst there, an eclipse of the moon occurred, and 
the whole population, men, women, and children, 
turned out into the street with all their pots, pans, 
and irons, everything in short which would make a 
noise and frighten away the monster which was sup- 
posed to be eating up the poor moon : perhaps they 
too think it is made of green cheese. 

The port of Enzelli, at which I was to embark, 
is a day's journey distant from Resht ; a journey not 
exempt from a certain amount of risk. The first 
part of it is performed on horseback through the 
densest of jungles, where the soil is of the same con- 
sistency as that of an Irish bog, and where the 
Persians purposely abstain from making a road, on 
the supposition that, if they did so, the Russians 
would next day march into and take possession of the 
province. The consequence is that the traveller must 
wade his horse almost the whole distance through 
liquid mud, and is in constant danger of being en- 
gulfed in ooze and slush. The ponies used on this 


322 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

stage are very sagacious, and generally avoid the 
worst holes, but some of these are so deep that a man 
on foot is sent in first to sound them. Having, by 
good luck, safely traversed this Slough of Despond, I 
reached an assemblage of reed huts, called Pyr-i- 
bazaar, on the banks of a sluggish stream, and entered 
a cranky flat-bottomed boat, of rough planks and 
wicker-work, with wooden spades for oars. Twelve 
Persians set themselves to row with these implements, 
and encouraging each other by constant appeals to 
AH and imprecations on the head of Omar, pulled 
slowly down the narrow channel ; which is in some 
places so overhung with trees and blocked with rank 
brushwood and reeds that we could hardly pass, and 
in others so shallow that the crew were obliged to 
haul us through the mud. At last, in about two hours 
we got out into a lagoon some eighteen miles long and 
ten broad, swarming with aquatic birds, pelicans, 
storks, herons, and wild-fowl. Crossing, by the aid 
of a tattered sail, to its northern side, we reached a 
narrow channel, cutting at right angles the tongue of 
land which separates the lagoon from the Caspian 
Sea, and connecting their waters together. 

On the western bank of this channel stands Enzelli, a 
village of some 200 or 300 inhabitants, who dwell in reed 
huts surrounded by orange-groves, and are very proud 
of their lighthouse and three small forts. The former 
is built on the model of all lighthouses, and would 
resemble them in all respects, if it was oftener lighted ; 
the latter are only in name what they pretend to be, 

Persian Passage-Boat — Port of Enzelli. 323 

as the guns mounted on them cannot be fired without 
the risk of killing more friends than foes. As to the 
port, it is simply what nature has made it, and nothing 
more appears requisite for the infinitesimal amount of 
commercial business transacted at it. Half-a-dozen 
rotten old vessels, which, to judge from their build, 
date from the time of the Spanish Armada, were lying 
moored close in shore. What they were doing there 
it is impossible to say : they were neither taking in 
nor discharging cargo ; there was no freight visible 
for them, and none seemed to be expected; ware- 
houses there were none, and the only edifice, above 
the rank of a hut, was the custom-house. 

Persians, even of the seaboard, regard nautical pur- 
suits with the utmost fear and abhorrence ; the imports 
and exports of the place are, therefore, carried by the 
Russian steamers which call here once a fortnight, 
weather permitting ; but are prohibited from entering 
the lagoon, and consequently obliged to lie-to a mile and 
a half from the coast — a most inconvenient arrange- 
ment, as communication with the shore is often im- 
possible, and at all times attended with risk. Such 
being the case, it is matter for surprise that Russia, 
which long ago forced Persia to renounce her right to 
maintain armed vessels on the sea, should have so 
long submitted to a prohibition which exposes her 
merchantmen to considerable danger ; there being 
along the whole of its southern shore and outside the 
bar of Enzelli, no harbour, worthy of the name, 
for which they can make in stress of weather. 

324 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

My steamer was not due until the morning after 
my arrival, and there being nothing beyond what I 
have mentioned to see in the village, I took a stroll 
on the flat sea-sands and had a salt-water bathe. On 
my return, my attention was attracted by a large iron 
boiler and a quantity of machinery lying neglected on 
the beach. Their story is illustrative of " cosas de 
Persia." Two years previously, the Shah, by the 
advice of course of some one who had a private 
interest in the matter, had determined to re-coin the 
currency * of his realms on a European basis, and in- 
structed his Minister in Paris to purchase the neces- 
sary machinery and engage some Frenchmen to 
superintend the new mint. The men arrived at 
Tehran, and the machinery entered the Caspian. 
There the steamer on which it was freighted burnt 
out her wood, and the cases in which it was packed 
were used to supply the deficiency and enable her to 
reach Enzelli ; where boilers, wheels, and all the 
delicate apparatus for coining were landed pell-mell 
on the sand. Meantime, a building had been erected 
at Tehran for their reception, and as soon as it 
approached completion they were ordered up to the 
capital. Then, and not till then, was it discovered 
that it was absolutely impossible, even with the assist- 

* The coins current in Persia are, 1, Tomans (gold) = 10 francs ; 
2, Kerans (silver) = 1 franc; 8, Shahis (copper) = 1 centime. 
They are all unmilled, and by being constantly submitted to the 
process of sweating, soon lose their proper weight. Sovereigns and 
napoleons are the most useful foreign coins. 

Persian attempt at a New Mint—Ashorada. 325 

ance of the Shah's elephant, to transport them any 
further. So there they lie, and there they will con- 
tinue to lie till they are buried in the drifting sand. 
Some centuries hence they may perhaps be dug up 
and returned to Europe to figure in a Hyrcanian 
museum ! 

On the morning of the 11th of July the steamer 
hove in sight ; my rickety boat was manned, and we 
got through the surf, which was running rather high, 
with nothing worse than a wetting. She was a Clyde- 
built vessel of 600 tons, which had steamed to Peters- 
burg, had there been taken to pieces, and thus 
transported by canals and down the Volga to the 
Caspian, where she was put together again. Her 
captain was a Swede, who, luckily for me, spoke 
German, and we two had the ship to ourselves. At 
2 p.m. we started eastwards, and after calling at 
Meshed-i-syr, an insignificant Persian village, came to 
anchor on the afternoon of the 12th, off Ashorada ; 
which has already been incidentally mentioned as 
being a Russian naval station. It is a low unhealthy 
island, in the south-eastern corner of the Caspian, 
about four miles from the mainland. Its soil is barely 
three feet above the sea-level, and it measures only a 
mile in length, and 300 yards in breadth, one half of 
it being sand and the other marsh. Besides being a 
hotbed for fever, the latter is the favourite breeding- 
ground of mosquitoes, which are there generated in 
sufficient numbers to exasperate the tempers of the 
whole of mankind. Happily they remain where they 

326 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

are, and content themselves with worrying the 300 
sailors and their families who form the garrison 
of the island ; and who, together with a flotilla of two 
steam schooners, two sailing yachts, and two steam 
launches, represent the naval power of Russia in this 
remote quarter. The commandant of the station, 

Captain Prince , for whom I had letters of 

recommendation, received me most hospitably ; but 
informed me, to my regret, that it would be impos- 
sible for me to carry out my intention of paying a visit 
to Astrabad, a Persian town about forty miles inland 
and eastwards from the island. 

The Turcomans, who roam over the vast steppes 
which stretch almost uninterruptedly from the eastern 
shore of the Caspian to the khanats of Khiva and 
Bokhara, are ever warring with the inhabitants of the 
north-eastern province of Persia ; and one of their 
most powerful tribes, the Yemoots, who have their 
pasture-grounds on the banks of the Attrek, had 
lately made a formidable incursion into the country 
of their hereditary enemy. Headed by an Affghan 
adventurer, who had persuaded them that he was a 
prophet and that God had rendered him invulnerable, 
they had assembled in great force, and surprised and 
surrounded the Governor of Astrabad as he was 
returning to that town from a visit to an outlying 
fort. The Persian, though vastly outnumbered, rather 
than surrender himself and his men to slavery for 
life, had cut his way through his foes, and had killed 
the would-be invulnerable prophet in a hand-to-hand 

Russian Naval Station— Incursions of Turcomans. 327 

encounter. The Yemoots bad thereupon dispersed, 
but were still in the neighbourhood, and rendered all 
communication between the town and the sea exceed- 
ingly dangerous. Under these circumstances, to 
persist in my intention would have been like putting 
my head into the lion's mouth, and I therefore 
desisted from it. Even in quiet times, this journey 
to Astrabad ought never to be undertaken without a 
strong escort, for the Turcomans are as irrepressible 
as the Uhlan : on their swift, powerful horses they are 
here, there, and everywhere. Nor is it only on land 
that they are so formidable : they make frequent 
descents, in their long log canoes, on the coasts of 
Mazanderan ; and are so much dreaded that the 
peasants till their rice-fields and gather their mulberry- 
leaves with fire-arms slung on their shoulders. 

To compensate me for my disappointment, the 
commandant steamed me about the vicinity in one of 
his launches. One day we landed at a place called 
Gez, where there is a very primitive depot for Russian 
merchandise, a good deal of which is here exchanged 
for the cotton produced in the interior. It is a miser- 
able place, consisting of a few booths thatched with 
reeds, and several wigwams perched on poles, the 
whole being surrounded by a strong palisade. The 
surrounding scenery, as throughout these provinces, 
is lovely — wide reaches of luxuriant jungle, backed by 
high mountains covered with forests, which are in 
turn surmounted by the lofty peaks of the Elburz. 

Unfortunately, all attempts to turn to account the 

828 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

great natural advantages and the fertile soil of these 
regions are rendered nugatory by the unhealthiness of 
the climate. Abbas the Great, the traces of whose 
care for the well-being of his subjects have been so 
often mentioned in these pages, left no stone unturned 
to improve their condition. In order to repeople 
them, he transported hither 30,000 Armenians and 
Georgians, observing (somewhat cynically, perhaps) 
that, as the country abounded in wild boars and wild 
vines, it was just the place for Christians. He caused 
solid stone causeways to be carried through the 
swampy jungle, and roads to be opened from the sea- 
coast to the interior. He built himself a palace, the 
gardens of which were celebrated for their beauty 
throughout his kingdom, and frequently came over 
the mountains to superintend in person his improve- 
ments. What their immediate result may have been, 
I am unable to state ; but at present their remains are 
hardly visible, and since then the population has been 
steadily decreasing : no wonder either, for the air is 
pregnant with fever and the damp heat which prevails 
for five months of the year is intolerable. It was 
with supreme satisfaction that, after three days' 
experience of Ashorada, I received an intimation from 
the Swedish captain to the eflect that he would be 
ready to start westwards on the 15th. 

We touched again at Enzelli on the next day, and 
on the succeeding one arrived at Astara, the frontier 
town between Russia and Persia. Three hours further 
on we halted at Lenkoran, and on the 18th reached 

Unhealthy Climate— Baku— Ancient Fire-Temple. 329 

Baku, the best port in the Caspian, and, as before 
stated, the intended terminus of the railway from Poti 
and Tiflis. The town, which is situated on an arid 
slope and has a population of 30,000 souls, contains 
nothing of interest ; but about ten miles to the north 
of it stands one of the most ancient temples in the 
w r orld, where the sacred fire has been burning un- 
interruptedly for centuries, perhaps since the time of 
Zoroaster, and still remains unquenched. As we 
stopped two days, I had time to drive out and see it, 
and in so doing renewed acquaintance with a wheeled 
vehicle, a means of locomotion to which I had been a 
stranger since my entrance into Persia. 

The temple, which, with an oratory and two or three 
chambers for the use of devotees, is enclosed by high 
walls, is in the form of a small square porch, open on 
three sides and roofed with a dome, immediately under 
the centre of which stands the altar. The eternal fire 
is fed by a current of natural naphtha, issuing from 
an orifice drilled through the altar and to a depth of 
eighteen feet below. It was tended, at the time of my 
visit, by a Dervish from Delhi, who lighted several other 
currents of the same sort within the enclosure, and 
gave me an idea of the rites of his religion, whatever 
it may be, by singing a monotonous dirge, and ringing 
an accompaniment on a hand-bell before each of the 
flames. He had lived there in solitude for nearly two 
years, and shortly expected a successor, likewise from 
India. This holy shrine, this Mecca of the Guebres, 
is the purest fountain of their sacred element, and, in 

330 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

the days of Persia's greatness was visited by thousands 
of genuine worshippers, and even as late as the twelfth 
century pilgrimages were made to it. But it is now 
left to the care of a single believer in some obscure 
Hindoo superstition. No one has, I believe, as yet 
ascertained how the source of the fire was first dis- 
covered, or when the temple became an object of such 
reverence to the Guebres. 

The whole country, for several miles round Baku, 
has a decidedly volcanic appearance, and would seem 
to be underlaid by reservoirs of petroleum and naphtha. 
Close to the temple there is a large manufactory for 
the purification of the former ; and as to the latter, it 
spurts like gas from a gaspipe, and burns in like 
fashion wherever a hole is driven two or three fathoms 
into the soil. On my way home I noticed several of 
these flaming indications of subterranean gasometers. 
Nor is it only on land that phenomena of this nature 
are visible ; they exist likewise in the sea, and a 
calm, windless night gave me an opportunity of wit- 
nessing them to great advantage. Soon after sunset 
the governor of the town, who, with the hospitality 
universal among the Kussian authorities in these 
parts, had entertained me at dinner, put his barge at 
my disposal, and I was rowed out of the harbour to a 
small bay about a mile to the south, where the smooth 
surface of the sea was rippled by several eddies like 
diminutive whirlpools. A lighted wisp of straw, of 
which we had a supply in the boat, was cast into each 
eddy, and at once ignited the petroleum or naphtha, 

Petroleum and Naphtha— Derbend— Caspian Sea. 331 

which, after rising through fourteen feet of salt water, 
burnt as brilliantly as a cauldron of tar. From one 
eddy we rowed to another and fired the sea in a dozen 
places. The effect of this union of two such opposite 
elements — a union which, were there no wind, would 
never be dissolved — was strikingly beautiful and 
strange ; especially as, on the night in question, there 
was not a breath of air to disturb its duration. 

On the 21st we again got under weigh and steamed 
northwards along the low western coast of the Caspian, 
past several islands, — one of which I was told was an 
active volcano four years previously, — to Derbend, the 
capital of the Caucasian province of Daghestan, prettily 
situated on the slope of a frowning hill and surrounded 
with vineyards and gardens. Petroffsk was our next 
halting-place, and on the 23rd, i. e. forty-eight hours 
after leaving Baku, we reached Neun Fuss, where, as 
indicated by the name, there are only nine feet of 
water, and we were obliged to quit our steamer for a 
flat-bottomed barge. Before turning our backs on the 
Caspian I may mention two peculiarities about it 
which are not perhaps generally known : its level is 
sixty-two feet below that of the Black Sea, and 
though it rises some three feet in summer, in conse- 
quence, no doubt, of the greater mass of fresh water 
discharged into it at that season, it does not, as far 
as I could ascertain, lose any of its saltness by this 
temporary dilution. 

From Neun Fuss we were tugged, in five hours, to 
the most navigable of the numerous mouths of the 

332 Journey through the Caucasus and Persia. 

Volga : it is at least three miles broad, but only three 
feet deep. Sea-going vessels are thus prevented from 
entering the river, and all merchandise must be tran- 
shipped either inside or outside the bar. Some twenty 
miles above, on its eastern bank, is Astrakhan, a city 
containing 50,000 inhabitants, half of whom are 
Tartars ; it has very wide unpaved streets, muddy or 
dusty according to the season, many wretched wooden 
houses, and a gloomy Kremlin, built in the 16th 
century, and reminding one strongly of the deeds of 
John the Terrible. Disagreeable traces of the staple 
industry of the place are seen and felt at every turn 
in the shape of barrels of Caviare and cured fish, and 
an oily smell which pervades the whole atmosphere. 
The sturgeon fisheries in the neighbouring branches 
of the Volga are very extensive, and so lucrative, that 
the mayor of the town, one of the largest proprietors, 
has amassed a fortune of not less than 2,000,000/. from 
their proceeds. 

On the 25th July we started up the river, on a 
comfortable steamboat, which wanted nothing to render 
its accommodation perfect but sheets to the beds. It 
was very much crowded with deck-passengers, Eussians, 
Tartars, Persians, going to Nishni Novgorod, and some 
Caucasian prisoners in chains on their way to the 
mines of Siberia. The latter seemed to be very well 
treated by their guards, and to have as much tea to 
drink as any one on board ; which is saying a good 
deal, for morning, noon, and night this beverage was 
being brewed and drunk in tall glasses, with a slice of 

Astrakhan— Fisheries of the Volga. 333 

lemon to flavour it. Of the broad swift-flowing 
Volga I have little to say : its banks are flat and its 
scenery is monotonous. We stopped at Sarepta, a 
flourishing German colony, established a century ago ; 
at Saritzin, whence a railway connects the Volga and 
the Don ; at Samara, where there are some hills about 
400 feet high, which our captain informed me were 
unequalled in height by anything between the Oural 
and the Carpathians. We also stopped at the cities 
of Zimbirsk and Kazan, and at many other places 
which are all duly described in the pages of Murray, 
and after steaming seven days and seven nights, 
arrived, on the 1st of August, at Nishni Novgorod. 

In the railway-station of that town, I threw away 
my pen, forBradshaw there told me that if I halted at 
Moscow to note my impressions of a hurried view of 
the burnished cupolas and domes of its Kremlin, or to 
write a word at St. Petersburg about the gems of the 
Hermitage and the porphyry and marbles of St. 
Isaacs, I should miss the train which was to convey 
me, via Berlin and Cologne, to Calais ; the Dover 
express which was to carry me into Charing Cross on 
the 8th of August, and more important than all, the 
limited mail which was to land me amongst heather 
and grouse on the 12th. 




Total distance, 360 versts (240 miles) . 
Principal Stations : — 






Railway is opened to Quiril and 
will soon be completed to Tiflis. 


Tiflis to Julfa (Persian Frontier). 


Nawo Akstaf. 107 

Euruslam 50 

Dilijan 19 

Yelenawka 33 

Erivan 60 

(Erivan to Etchmiaclzin, 19). 

Nakhitshevan 120 

Julfa 40 

* 429 


Julfa to Tehran. f 


Marande 42 

Tabreez 43 

Hadjivava 28 

Turkmanchai 50 

Mianeh 27 

Zenjan 55 

Sultania 25 

Kasvin 90 

Seffer Kodjer 32 

Tehran 67 


Tehran to Ispahan. 

Kinarigerd 20 

Koom 45 

Sin-Sin 28 

Kaslian 32 

Kohrood 20 

Sow 18 

Mourcha-Kar 28 

Gez 24 

Ispahan 16 


* Equal to 286 miles. 

f Distances are calculated in Persia by farsaks (parasangs), about four 
English miles : those here given are in accordance with the amount charged 
for post-horses per farsak. 




Ispahan to Shiraz. 


Marg • 12 

Mayar 24 

Koomesliah 24 

Aminabad 28 

Yezdicaust 16 

Shulghistan 20 

Abadeh 20 

Sormak 16 

Khonehkhorreh 28 

Dehbeed 20 

Moorgab 28 

Sivend 33 

Persepolis 16 

Zergoon 17 

Shiraz 17 


Shiraz to Bushire. 

Khonehsemon 32 

Dasht-i-Arjeen 12 

Kazeroon 31 

Direez 10 

Bushire 79 


Shiraz to Yezdicaust (hill-road). 

Zergoon 17 

Mayeen 30 

Rezabad 30 

Assopas 16 

Kooski-zerd 24 

Dehgerdov 24 

Yezdicaust 32 



Tehran to Kermanshah. 


Kolmeh 24 

Khaneabad 32 

Kushkek 24 

Noveran 36 

Zerreh 32 

Melagird 18 

Hamadan 24 

Sahadabad 27 

Kangawar 24 

Sahna 24 

Bisitoon 16 

Kermanshah 25 

Tehran to Resht. 

Kasvin 99 

Kharzan 32 

Mangil 22 

Rustamabad 22 

Kudum 20 

Resht 24 


Enzelli to London by Steamboat, 
touching at Astara, Lenkoran, 
Baku, Derbend, Petroffsk, and 
inclusive of stoppages. 


Astrakhan 7 

Nishni Novgorod (by steamboat) 7 

Moscow (by railway) 1 

St. Petersburg „ 1 

London „ 4 


London : Printed by Smith, Eldkb and Co., Old Bailey, E.C. 


IVf. ■ * 






Mounsey, Augustus Henry 
A journey through the 
Caucasus and the interior 
of Persia